A Pedal for Your Thoughts
The initiative “A Pedal for Your Thoughts” relates to the Muncie Action Plan (MAP) Initiative 5: Managing Community Resources. This initiative seeks to address the essential facilities and infrastructure of communities and promote environmentally sustainable practices. Bicycle use has been addressed as a desired piece of the TPA infrastructure that is currently lacking. The addition of these desired bike lanes will encourage environmentally sustainable practices by reducing the use of cars and improve the health of those who use the lanes. Specifically, bike lanes relate to action 7: Institute Bike-Friendly Community Programs. Although this particular action aims to educate the community and give them the confidence, skills, and ability to ride safely in a way that creates a strong bike culture in Muncie, access to appropriate infrastructure must also be addressed to allow more citizens the opportunity to use that education. The introduction of bike lanes into the TPA neighborhood will allow the residents to better engage themselves and better allow them the freedom to choose the mode of transportation they want to use to get around Muncie.
Residents desired the installation of bike lanes during a brainstorming session at the February Thomas Park/Avondale Neighborhood Association meeting.
Bike lanes help create a more pedestrian friendly environment for neighborhood residents and visitors. TPA exists as the southern gateway into Muncie, and the existence of bike lanes is one step that can introduce the neighborhood and the rest of Muncie as an attractive and enjoyable place for visitors and potential businesses.
Bike lanes also allow for greater connectivity to downtown Muncie. This will allow TPA residents to more easily attend downtown events and will equally allow surrounding residents to visit TPA and spend time and money at local businesses.
Bike lanes are a part of the public right-of-way, such as streets and sidewalks, which are used by the public and owned by the city. Since they are a relatively new initiative by many communities, having the lanes put in will take a showing of support by the entire neighborhood. It is important to keep in mind that a bike lane is not the answer for getting people to ride their bikes. It requires education on how to safely ride bikes in traffic, how to repair bikes, support of bike safety, and the installation of bike racks. To successfully accomplish this, a bicycle committee should be created to represent TPA. The committee should establish a set of reachable. An approximate timeline should accompany this established set of goals. This document will be used later to measure progress. Some of the responsibilities of this group might include:
- Talking to local businesses to have bike racks installed.
- Attend and encourage neighborhood residents to attend local bicycle-pedestrian meetings.
- Work with Bike Muncie to determine how to connect the neighborhood to the rest of Muncie.
- Arranging for educational classes with topics including how to appropriately ride a bike on the road, how to fix a bike, and the importance of bike safety.
- Petition the Mayor and City Council to have bike lanes installed where appropriate.
First and foremost, the committee will begin mobilizing residents interested in supporting the bicycle movement in TPA. A list will be created that includes contact information so that these residents can be informed of when local bicycle-pedestrian meetings and bicycling events are held. These residents should be the driving force in expressing the neighborhoods interest in the bicycling community. A single individual from the committee should act as the contact with the chair of Bike Muncie, Kyle Johnson. His email can be found at the end of this initiative.
Once a core group of residents has been gathered, it will be time to talk to businesses to encourage the installation of bike racks. The City of Muncie has a supply of free bike racks that can be used, the business just needs to pay for the installation. These can be acquired by contacting Kyle Johnson, email can be found below. To determine which business to target, the committee will refer to the road suitability’s put forth in Figure 3 below. This map will also be used as a reference by Bike Muncie to create a safe biking route through the neighborhood. It can also be taken as evidence when petitioning the mayor for bike lanes, sharrows (road markings indicating a shared automobile/bicycle lane, see Figure 2), and/or the placing of signs which indicate safe biking routes through the neighborhood.
Finally, a culture of safe bicycling needs to be maintained within the community, and this requires education. Once again, the committee will use their core membership, and the assets of Bike Muncie, to lead these classes utilizing public meeting places such as the Ross Center.
The purpose of establishing the bicycle committee above would be, in part, to create a group to be responsible for bicycle activity within the community. It would lead the management of bicycle advocacy, outreach, and advancement within the community and connect with the local Muncie government, specifically Bike Muncie, to push for the creation of bike lanes and the implementation of bike racks within the community.
This group should be held accountable by how closely it adheres to the goals set forth in its founding document. This document should be decided upon by the neighborhood and the committee, but it is important to write it in a way that is both flexible, as unexpected changes occur, yet also set a clear path forward in terms of timing and goals.
Specific roads need to be targeted that act as connections to existing bike networks and direct residents to desirable locations. Figure 3 below shows the suitability of neighborhood roads for biking. The red lines indicate a street which would not be safe to use as a bike lane, while the yellow and green lines can be considered appropriate for biking. Yellow lines should be considered for more experienced riders who are comfortable in traffic, while the green lines would be considered safe for riders is most skill levels. Unmarked streets are typically neighborhood streets which, due to low traffic, can be considered safe for biking dependent on the condition of the road.
This map becomes an important consideration as the bicycle committee begins to advocate for the creation of bike lanes and safe paths within the community. The first businesses that should be approached for the implementation of bike racks are those along the streets that can be considered the most suitable for biking.
Sharing the Road in Portland, ME
In 2005 the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) selected the Bicycle Coalition of Maine (BCM) to begin spreading a message of “Share the Road” in Portland, Maine, a city of approximately 66,000 residents and similar in size to Muncie. An example of the message is seen in Figure 4 below. There existed barriers to bicycling similar to those seen in Muncie, such as real and perceived safety issues, road space, and funding.
The project put forth by the BCM was named “Share the Road for a Healthy Maine.” It was built on collecting data on what bicyclists and motorists knew, and how they learned, about sharing the road, using the data to design and deliver appropriate messages, and evaluating the resultant changes in behavior and perception. After collecting the data, appropriate messages were created which focused on “Same Roads, Same Rules, Same Rights” and the behavior of both bicyclists and motorists. The combination of these three messages can be seen illustrated in Figure 4. This message was then pushed to the public over a two week media blitz in May 2006 across TV, newspaper, and radio. Anecdotal evidence showed a positive impression on both bicyclists and motorists.
Funding for this project may be what made it possible, but the coalition had been spreading its own message of “Share the Road” since 1996 before receiving any funding of the scale in this study. Starting in 1996, the coalition was similar to the situation in Muncie where they were focused on community engagement and education. To achieve the success of the campaign above, it must be started small. Engagement and education of TPA is a vital first step towards the achievement of long term goals. More Information can be found on page 47 of the Case Study Compendium of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.
Funding for this initiative will primarily come through the city and efforts led by Bike Muncie. Community engagement in local bicycling events and proof that TPA would actually use bicycling infrastructure and facilities is key to getting the funds used in the neighborhood. However, once businesses have agreed, bike racks can be obtained free of charge by contacting Bike Muncie.
Muncie Bicycle-Pedestrian Advisory Committee – Bike Muncie
300 N. High St. City Hall
Muncie, IN 47305-1639
Phone: (765) 747-4831
Contact: Kyle Johnson, Chair
Additional Websites of Interest
 “Case Study Compendium,” Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, July 2010, http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/cms/downloads/pbic_case_study_compendium.pdf.