Avid cyclists know the local roads and streets to avoid.
When riding his bicycle from his Greenwood home to Shelbyville, Michael Kyle knows he has to avoid Whiteland Road because it’s too narrow to allow the heavy traffic to safely get around him. There is some room on the shoulders of U.S. 31, but the traffic is too heavy and fast-moving to make that route safe, he said.
Local cyclists have plenty of options in Johnson County where they can ride safely, including bike trails in Greenwood and Franklin and low-traffic county roads with hills near Prince’s Lakes and Trafalgar.
But the challenge can be in getting there. Some roads are too narrow, while others are falling apart on the shoulder.
Riders also have to worry about sharing the road with motorists who can be inattentive or frustrated that they’re being slowed down by a bicycle.
Adam Kasch and Dan Catlin were riding on a county road to Shelbyville when they heard a truck quickly drive up behind them.
That truck barely moved over when passing the cyclists, and Kasch said he could have been hit by simply extending his elbow.
“We all have a wife and kids, and we want to go home to them every night,” Kasch said.
Local cyclists have a wish list.
First, they don’t feel that they need a huge trails system, similar to the Monon Trail in Indianapolis. They simply would like to see a few more bike lanes and easier places to cross some of the busiest roads.
And they wish motorists would better share the road and not cut it so close when passing.
“We’ve made a lot of progress, but the biggest challenges are the human challenge and the infrastructure challenge,” Catlin said.
In the past five years, as cycling has become more popular, local communities have found ways to give cyclists safer routes to travel on, such as in Franklin, which has a system of trails in the city and at the high school.
And cyclists would hope motorists want even more people to cycle, which cuts down on traffic due to fewer cars and trucks being on the road, Catlin said.
Franklin city officials are weighing the best places to build more trails or improving the quality of the road or their shoulders. Their maps clearly show areas where their trails don’t connect, and city officials are considering ways to fix the problem, such as building more or repairing some roads.
“For the most part the broken areas are in places where the trail may end or pick up in a half of a mile,” Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said. “There may be a safe road or other lane they can use to get to the next section of trails. But we have the maps that show where they’re not connected and working toward improving those places.”
Franklin city officials are working to improve their trails for cyclists. The city has about 10 miles of trails and plans to build walking and bicycle paths that will connect the city’s east side to the high school. For example, the city wants to build bicycle paths along the proposed truck route that runs from State Road 44 to U.S. 31 along Eastview, Arvin and Commerce drives.
One of the biggest concerns is crossing U.S. 31, Catlin said. He would like to see another crosswalk but understands there’s only so much a city can do when it comes to the busiest roads. The state has to make any changes to intersections with U.S. 31, since that is a state-maintained highway.
Recent improvements have made Franklin the place cyclists want to meet for rides that can provide a mixture of trails with nice scenery and safe roads with minimal traffic, Catlin said.
“I think Franklin has done a considerably better job than Greenwood has done,” said Bob Locke, manager of Bicycle Garage Indy in Greenwood. “Franklin is working on their trail system constantly. I go down there and ride frequently with friends, and we ride through the trail system because it’s easier than crossing (U.S.) 31.”
Greenwood has built some trails that can be used by cyclists, such as a path that runs on Graham Road between Main Street and County Line Road. A similar path will be built on both sides of Worthsville Road as part of work to widen the road. The city also has some multiuse paths in Freedom Park that can be used by cyclists, community development services director Mark Richards said.
The city is looking for ways to extend and connect the trails, but bike lanes have not been a focus because of limited space in many areas to expand the roadway without having to purchase property, Richards said.
“We don’t have any plans for bike lanes currently,” he said. “We’ve worked fairly diligently to include multiuse pathways where possible and where we feel is most appropriate.”
But cyclists’ concern is that those trails don’t lead to enough safe options. Cyclists would like the trails to lead to roads that aren’t too narrow or heavily used to be considered safe, Catlin said.
Locke said cyclists can help by obeying traffic laws and being considerate. All cyclists should stop at traffic lights and not cruise through them.
Kyle doesn’t think cyclists should even travel on busy roads like U.S. 31, which causes traffic to back up and leads to frustrated motorists more willing to pass a bicycle without much space between them.
“It’s just so inconsiderate,” Kyle said. “I think sometimes we deservedly get a bad reputation for running through stop signs and being the cause of problems.”