TRANSPORTATION

At this point of the Greenway & Blueways 2020 Plan, two major elements – Conservation and Recreation – have been analyzed. This next chapter on Transportation focuses on how to tie these together to create a cohesive, non-motorized network in Northwest Indiana.


For the purposes of this plan, the discussion will center upon the safe movement of pedestrians and bicyclists, primarily on our regional roadways. The Ped & Pedal Plans went to great lengths to outline best practices and strategies towards these ends. The G&B 2020 Plan will also touch on these practices as well, but more so as a guide than a detailed overview. To this end there will be references to documents for additional study and application.


An Abundance of Reason$

Making the case for improving non-motorized connections in our region falls into three major categories – motorized vehicles, health, and economic benefits.


Addicted to Roads

There exists no better argument for improving our quality of life than the reduction of our near- obsessive reliance on the automobile (cars, trucks, vans, etc.). In 2009, over 83% of all person trips were taken by an automobile, compared to 10% by walking, and only 4% by bike1. This represents a gross imbalance of transportation choices, and as a country we are paying dearly.


Accounting for all costs, from fuel to insurance to depreciation, the average car owner in the

    1. ays $12,544 a year for a car that puts in a mere 14-hour workweek. Drive an SUV? Tack on another $1,908.142. Now factor in the safety risks where the traffic death toll in 2015 exceeded 3,000 a month, where car crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 1 and 393.


      Worse yet are the air pollution risks where it has been estimated that 53,000 Americans die prematurely every year, losing 10 years of life on average compared to their lifespans in the absence of tailpipe emissions4. Combine this with traffic deaths, and health care costs relating to our automobile dependency are truly significant.


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      1 National Household Travel Survey, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, 2009

      2 The Absurd Primacy of the Automobile in American Life, The Atlantic, Edward Humes, April, 2016

      3 Ibid

      4 Study: Air pollution causes 200,000 early deaths each year in the U.S., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jennifer Chu, August, 2013

      Beyond our own personal costs are the enormous expenses on the public at large. The American Society for Civil Engineers has estimated that an annual expenditure of $191 billion will be needed to keep up our roads and bridges, up by over half of the $91 billion that is being spent currently5. This is a clear indication of how overbuilt our society has become for the accommodation of automobiles.


      Obesity and US

      NIRPC’s 2005 Ped & Pedal Plan mentioned that, “America is growing…fat.” Unfortunately obesity rates have only increased, and continue to threaten our collective quality of life. Between 2011 and 2014 it has been estimated that 36% of the U.S. adult population is now considered obese6, which is up from 31% as first reported in the 2005 plan.


      Along with our growing waistlines are our shrinking pocketbooks. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight7. This is also up from a reported cost of $117 billion in 2000.


      A major culprit remains physical inactivity (along with poor nutrition as well). The typical adult requires at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity8. However, it is estimated that only 21% of the adult population meets these standards9.


      The key to increasing one’s physical activity is providing a safe and accessible environment for one to walk and bike around in. The benefits of regular activity are enormous - from a healthier heart, to weight control, to reducing cancer risk and even improving one’s mood. For a detailed list of these benefits, please visit www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/data/facts.htm.



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      5 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, American Society of Civil Engineers, (online), 2013

      6 CDC National Center for Health Statistics, Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2011– 2014, November 2015

      7 Eric A. Finkelstein, Justin G. Trogdon, Joel W. Cohen and William Dietz, Estimates Annual Medical Spending Attributable To Obesity: Payer-And Service-Specific, Health Affairs, (online) July 2009

      8 Mayo Clinic, Health & Lifestyle Fitness, (online) August 2016

      9 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Facts about Physical Activity, (online) May 2014

      It’s the Economy…

      Advancing a non-motorized network can provide a community with a windfall of economic benefits. There are an abundance of resources that strongly back up the growing acceptance that people desire to live and work where they can readily ride and walk. As an example, a 2011 report found that bicycling and walking projects create 11-14 jobs per $1 million spent, compared to just 7 jobs created per $1 million spent on highway projects10.


      In addition, the location of pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure can improve neighboring property values. A number of communities that constructed “Complete Streets” projects (see page T-9) were studied and showed marked increases in values, from 80% in Orlando, FL to 111% in Dubuque, IA11. Locations near multi-use trails have also demonstrated a solid relationship to increased home values12.


      On a larger scale, the concept of “bicycle tourism” is rapidly becoming a popular option. Spurred on by the development of the United States Bicycle Route (USBR) system, cross-

      country bicycling has become far more accessible with many site catering to these two-wheeled tourists. In NW Indiana there are two USBR’s – 35 running north and south through central LaPorte County, and 36 running from Michigan over into downtown Chicago. Both routes offer tremendous economic benefits for the communities they pass through. For more information on taking advantage of bicycle tourists, please visit www.adventurecycling.org/bicycle-tourism.


      Thinking “Network”

      Providing the proper infrastructure for the safe and accessible movement of pedestrians and bicyclists is paramount for any sound network to thrive. A local municipality must plan comprehensively for the broad solutions available to make their community walk and bike friendly. Thus, the concept of a network must take hold at all levels of government for a culture of non-motorized activity to emerge.


      Thankfully we live today in a golden age of non-motorized facility development. Starting with the rails-to-trails movement in the 1980’s, and now blossoming nationwide, an abundance of resources and design solutions exist to help any community, at any size, achieve a measure of success in their planning and development efforts. In short, there are no excuses.


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      10 Political Economy Research Institute, Pedestrian and Bicycle Infrastructure: A National Study of Employment Impacts, Heidi Garrett-Peltier, June 2011

      11 Smart Growth America, Safer Streets, Stronger Economies – Complete Streets project outcomes from across the country, March 2015

      12 Headwaters Economics, Measuring Trail Benefits: Property Values, Spring 2016

      Where off-road trails represent the “non-motorized superhighways” of our region, developing a network from these systems must be equal in importance to the hierarchy of our road network.

      Where interstates cannot deliver you to every destination, so trails can’t be the end-all to a non-motorized network.


      This section will take the time to unpack and touch upon the myriad of policies and practices that can employed rapidly here in NW Indiana. Up first however, is an overview of the safety hazards at play today in the NIRPC three-county region.


      Negotiating the minefields

      Exploring the NW Indiana by foot or by bicycle can be a harrowing experience. Apart from the robust regional trail network, a tiny fraction of streets have been improved to aid in the safe movement of non-motorized traffic. Due to this fact, most people who do access our trails end up driving to a nearby trailhead - justifiably fearful of walking or biking due to a lack of infrastructure.


      However, trails are by far not the only issue at hand. Many destinations exist where safe routes need to be in place to give people additional access options other than the automobile. For far too many years our development patterns have catered exclusively to the motorized vehicle, and thus to the extreme detriment of all other modes of transport.


      The dangers of negotiating our region roadways simply curtail any sane individual from walking or biking – no matter how close the destination. Narrow and/or damaged roads, congested intersections, and incomplete, broken or non-existent sidewalks are far too commonplace. It’s no wonder our nation’s levels for bicycling and walking to work or shopping are so low.


      To gain an appreciation of the dangers inherent in today’s roadway network, the following figures offer a stark observation. Figure T-1 outlines the number of bicycle and pedestrian crashes that have occurred in NW Indiana between 2010 and 2016.


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      Figure T-1: Bicycle and Pedestrian Crashes Plus Fatalities 2010-2106


      It must be noted that while any injury or death from non-motorized travel is tragic, there is a tendency to discard this data as “weak” due to the numbers involved. However, people in general don’t have a death wish, and thus will not even attempt to walk or bike on a vast number of our regional roadways. Much like trail proximity, improved infrastructure will yield more non-motorized users.


      Creating the Network

      In Northwest Indiana, as well as many other parts of the United States, incremental work needs to be done towards making our communities walk and bicycle friendly. We didn’t get to this state of affairs overnight, and it will take a concerted effort going forward to focus on network- wide solutions to counter our lack of non-motorized transportation options.


      Solutions abound however, and have been employed in several communities in the three- county NIRPC region. The following highlights the steps necessary to create a community that values walking and bicycling as a legitimate form of transportation.


      Network Planning

      At the core of every walk and bike friendly community is a plan that supports its development and progress. Every municipality, at the local and county level, should undertake a serious planning effort to inventory and remedy non-motorized network options. This involves piecing together all major infrastructure elements such as trails, bike lanes, sidewalks, shared routes, and intersection treatments.


      Network Elements

      When creating a plan, a number of critical non-motorized infrastructure elements need to be addressed and mapped accordingly. These include the following:


      • Bicycle Routes: These can be broken down into three classes of use:

Provides a completely separated option for the exclusive use of bicycles and pedestrians with cross-flow traffic minimized. The trails are marked and landscaped. Fencing encourages use of designated access points.


Special caution must be afforded to the use of wide (8’ plus) sidepaths along roadways. These can be counter-productive due to numerous driveways crossing along the route, creating a hazard for path users due to the lack of visibility from the driver. Only consider these options for bicyclists if long distances occur between driveways.


A cycle track is an exclusive bike facility that combines the user experience of a separated path with the on-street infrastructure of a conventional bike lane. A cycle track is physically separated from motor traffic and distinct from the sidewalk. This is a helpful design treatment on busier roadways.


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Cycle Track in Vancouver, BC. Photo by Hawaiian Bicycle League


Provides for shared use with pedestrian or motor vehicle traffic. Bike routes are marked with signs, with optional sharrows. Sharrows are painted arrow symbols on the roadway signaling where bicyclists should ride. Wide shoulders (about four feet with no rumble strips) are another design option which should be explored. Currently over 600 miles of these routes exist in Porter and LaPorte Counties, mainly on rural roadways.



Each of these performance measures mentioned would take additional staff and/or financial resources to accomplish successfully at NIRPC. Their mention serves as a goal as NIRPC grows in its capacity. However, a number of performance measures have been assimilated into the Implementation chapter which follows next.