When I, an open road cyclist, decided to live in downtown Indianapolis instead of in a tree-filled neighborhood suburb, I knew that adjustments would be necessary. Instead of long, unbroken boulevards and lightly traveled country roads, I would have to deal with frequent intersections, impatient drivers, and pedestrians. Remembering the central part of this city as it was twenty years ago, I knew that adjustments in my cycling patterns will be necessary.
From my fifth floor apartments windows, however, I am developing a positive feeling about the new Indianapolis. I can see two blocks of the eight-mile long cultural trail, designed for walkers and cyclists, that takes them along an interesting route in the central part of town. Throughout the day people are using the trail, which is a sidewalk about twelve feet wide and paved with alternating strips of light and dark reddish-colored bricks.
Some of the people on the trail are taking in the sights of the city, but most of the users during the work week are commuting or traveling with serious business in mind. The density of use is less than on the Hawthorne and Broadway bridges in Portland, Oregon, where I have been cycling for thirteen years, but it is has all come to pass since I moved away from Indianapolis twenty-one years ago.
From my study window, I can see a station with spaces for eleven yellow bikes in the Indiana Paces Bike Rental system. At 4:30 on Friday afternoon, five of the spaces are empty. At this very minute, a group of fifteen cyclists, casually dressed and traveling about seven or eight miles an hour, have passed my window.
Sometime this fall, I will probably ride the entire cultural trail, at a moderate speed, with stops to view interesting sights. My greater interest, however, is to find routes that start at my front door and allow me to ride at a fast rate of speed along interesting streets and parkways. This is the kind of cycling that I enjoy, and I need to keep doing it in order to maintain as much cycling prowess as an octogenarian can reasonably expect to do.
The urgency of settling into my apartment has kept me off of my bike most of the week. This morning, when the temperature was still comfortable, a severe rain squall blew into town and kept me inside. After an early lunch, I ventured forth, heading east on New York Street. The first time I saw this street was the last Sunday of August in 1953. Billie and I had come to Indianapolis so that I could enroll in seminary, and on that Sunday we drove to Downey Avenue Christian Church, in the Irvington section of the city.
Back then I thought that this street was as decrepit an urban neighborhood as I had ever seen. In sixty-three years, it hasn’t changed much. From a cyclist’s point of view, one improvement has been made, however. Bicycle lanes have been established on this street, which is one way going east, and on its west-bound partner, Michigan Street.
At about the four-mile mark, New York Street angles toward the northeast following Pleasant Run, a gentle stream with trees and other forest growth providing protection from the sun and delight to the eyes. Turning north on Arlington Street, and west on 16th Street, I came back to a parkway following along the course of another small urban stream.
And then back to my apartment: Twelve miles at an average speed of 13.3 miles per hour. Not much, but after ten days of relatively little riding it felt good. Soon, however, my open road instincts will kick in and I’ll search out longer and more interesting rides.