The Hoosierist: How Safe Are Our Bike Lanes?

Treacherous cycling, art-fair rankings, and garage apartments. Ask The Hoosierist.

Q: The “bike lanes” painted along our busy city streets look pretty dicey to me. Are those safe?
A: It depends on what you mean by “safe.” Damon Richards of the bike advocacy group INDYCOG says there aren’t many bicycle/car mashups on Marion County’s bike lanes. The reason, however, isn’t that the lanes are particularly secure. Some are so scary that bikers won’t use them, making the chances of accidents effectively zero. The worst stretch, in his view, is Allisonville Road between 82nd Street and Kessler Boulevard. “You’re separated from the road by three inches of paint, the lane is filled with detritus, and cars are going by at 50 mph,” Richards says. A bike lane should be five feet wide, with another two-foot buffer between it and traffic. An even better solution, Richards says, is to build a bike-only network, à la the Monon. But don’t hold your breath. Painting lines on existing streets is far cheaper than pouring new ones.

Q: I’ve read that the Broad Ripple Art Fair is “nationally ranked.” What does that mean?
A: The ranking process is pretty similar to the one used by college basketball, although the “stats” compiled are obviously different. Instead of counting wins and losses, the publication Sunshine Artist conducts surveys at fairs around the nation, grading them on everything from the artists to the amenities. On this scale, we come out looking pretty good. For the past decade, the Broad Ripple Art Fair has bounced between the 60s and the 90s on the list, coming in at a respectable 67th in 2017. There are thousands of art fairs nationally, and the ones hogging the top of the rankings are typically held in top-tier cities, drawing 400,000 visitors and offering free admission. (Ours averages 16,000 guests and charges admission.) Given these constraints, it probably won’t ever be No. 1. But hey, at least we can still win our regional.

Q: I was thinking about converting my garage into an apartment and renting it out. Is that legal?
A: It’s legal in some areas, but be prepared to fill out a lot of forms and don’t count on approval. The reason Broad Ripple’s garages haven’t all been converted into housing for Butler students is because (as with other neighborhoods) it would change the area’s population, parking availability, and socioeconomic makeup. Regardless of where you’re located, the “secondary unit” can be no larger than 720 square feet; its entrance must be visible from a street; and you must use the house or the remodeled garage as a primary residence. Actually, this is only the tip of the wordy, boring, complicated iceberg, so your best bet is to contact the Department of Metropolitan Development.

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