When downtown Greenwood visitors want to get to shops and restaurants, doing so will be as simple as a short walk or bike ride.
Part of the overall downtown plan calls for removing the middle turn on Madison Avenue and adding a dedicated lane for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The Greenwood Redevelopment Commission is considering paying about $2 million to reconstruct a half-mile stretch of Madison Avenue from Pearl to Noble streets, the first phase in dramatic changes to 2 miles of the street from Smith Valley Road to County Line Road over the next several years that are expected to cost $12.5 million.
Key to that plan is a type of bike lane that is new to the area. While most bikes lanes feature painted stripes on roads which designate where bicyclists should stay, this bike lane would be a raised path between the sidewalk and the road.
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“I can’t particularly think of anywhere else that has that,” Greenwood Capital Projects Manager Kevin Steinmetz said. “A lot of places have painted bike lanes which create a variety of problems.”
While traditional bike lanes are suitable, they are not always safe for cyclists, he said. Having the raised, separate bike lanes, also known as protected bike lanes, is the solution often preferred by biking advocates, said Nancy Tibbett, executive director of Bike Indiana.
“That is actually the best type of bike lane you can put in,” she said.
The paths draw bicyclists who may not feel as safe being directly on the road, Tibbett said.
“It lends to quality of life,” she said. “People want to live and be active in communities that offer such amenities.”
Plans to reconstruct Madison Avenue call for the signature middle turn lane separating vehicles driving north and south to be removed from Noble to Pearl street. By eliminating the 13-foot turn lane, the city will make room for a two-way, raised bike path in between the sidewalk and the road on the west side of the street, separated from the road by a three-foot buffer.
The redevelopment commission is scheduled to vote next month on paying a consultant about $300,000 to create the plans for that section of Madison Avenue.
The bike path will eventually extend from Pearl Street to north of Fry Road by the Greenwood Park Mall. While there won’t be a bike path between Pearl Street and Main Street, that section will feature 10-foot sidewalks on either side of the road, which are twice the size of the current sidewalks, Steinmetz said.
The city doesn’t have definite plans for whether to build a bike lane on Madison Avenue south of Main Street, but the city does have the right-of-way to add one, he said.
Narrowing a road encourages drivers to slow down and be more careful, which is essential to the city’s goal of making the area more attractive to pedestrians and bicyclists, Steinmetz said.
The narrower section of the road — with two lanes rather than three — would be also be much cheaper to maintain during future repaving, he said.
What Madison Avenue will look like after the reconstruction at the north and south ends of the project remains to be determined, Steinmetz said.
Slowing down traffic rather than having it speed right through Old Town Greenwood also will help visitors get a better look at the area, council member Ezra Hill said.
“Madison Avenue is sort of the north gateway into Old Town,” he said. “When you have a gateway into your downtown you want it to look nice and be attractive to visitors.”
Because the city already has significant right-of-way on Madison Avenue — as much as 100 feet in some sections — it won’t need to purchase extra land for the reconstruction and has options for how to design the road, Steinmetz said.
The proposal to add the bike lane was well received by the city council, but some members questioned the size of the bike lanes and the impact of removing the turn lane on traffic.
“I understand the desire to slow traffic down, make it more pedestrian friendly, but we don’t want to make it so difficult to drive that people don’t want to drive downtown,” council member Mike Campbell said. He questioned whether the bike lane needed to take 13 feet of the roadway.
Council member David Lekse said he was in favor of the style being described.
“If we are going to have bike lanes it sounds safer,” he said.