Bike lanes point to a more pedestrian friendly downtown Muncie, University Village
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - Mayor Dennis Tyler took a major step Wednesday making the community more pedestrian and bike friendly by introducing bike lanes in the downtown.
The ;plan calls for marked bike lanes on the downtown traffic loop of High and Mulberry streets, taking off a lane of traffic and adding about 77 more on street parking spaces. The long range calls for more bike lanes in the University Village and throughout the community besides he possibility of returning two-way traffic to downtown Walnut Street.
It's all part of a downtown street scape plan that will fix the deteriorating bricks and make the downtown more accessible to those with disability. And Tyler intends to do more to make Muncie more pedestrian friendly by fixing sidewalks and installing ramps to make foot traffic easier.
Scott Cummings was riding his Gary Fisher hand-made bike downtown on Wednesday afternoon to come in and talk with Kirk"s Bike Shop mechanic Kyle Jaromin when asked about the bike lanes. Kirk's is a Muncie landmark in business since Muncie became a city in 1865.
"I think that is great," said Cummings, who details cars for a living.
Cummings finds himself dodging people and cars as he rides on streets, sidewalks and anywhere he can to get around. Unsure why Muncie took so long to become more bike and pedestrian friendly, Cummings sees Muncie improving its image and looks with the new administration, and he hoped more bike lanes would become the norm.
Jaromin said he heard about the plan and hoped it would be as popular as those in Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest. Bloomington has a large network of bike lanes and trails to connect the city with Indiana University, and the more than 25,000 students on campus.
Joanna Berry, who runs Hope Photography at the historic Murray Building, also found he bike lane plan inviting, and also supported restoring Walnut to two-way traffic. She found some drivers already travel the wrong direction on downtown streets, and thought two-way traffic would help motorists take a second look at downtown businesses and opportunities.
Tyler said bike lanes were not a luxury but a necessity to connect the community and promote health, safety and accessibility besides making it attractive to business and industry. Whether it is expanding Sallie Mae, or attracting a new Honda supplier, city officials know that quality of life besides parks, recreation and higher education is important to employers.
That concept of complete streets also will help the city comply with federal law to protect those with disability and satisfy a mandate to correct some of issues in downtown Muncie and elsewhere.
The city and Muncie Downtown Development Partnership also initiated the program given the growing number of bike racks and more riders seen downtown, said Jim Borgmann, an attorney who chairs the MDDP.
Tyler hopes to connect downtown bike lanes to Wysor and Wheeling to connect to Cardinal and White River Greenways trails and to connect from Walnut to Memorial Drive so that south Muncie also has pedestrian and bike access.
Ball State University also has been developing a bike plan given thousands of students and faculty use bikes as primary transportation. Muncie's Redevelopment Commission will fund the bike lanes and parking space and there's a $350,000 federal transportation grant to build and repair sidewalks downtown and in the University Village to make them safe and accessible to those with disability.