EDITOR'S NOTE: This has been kicking around my "drafts" folder for more than a week, so here is my rambled thoughts on Bike to Work Day and the state of cycling in Indinaapolis
I'm no stranger to discussing bicycling in Indianapolis, either on this blog or on other sites. I have been critical of some of the bicycling initiatives mainly because I think most of them do little to encourage casual cyclists to use their bike for transit, and therefore all you're really doing is giving the people already dedicated to bicycling more options. This is primarily based on that I once was a casual cyclist, and riding on the road in a traffic lane...with cars!... was once absolutely terrifying to me, and it takes a while before one can make that leap from neighborhood and trail riding to riding on the streets, bike lane or no bike lane.. I think expanding the above options (and well done, regular bike lanes for those already converted) will be a benefit to the entire community, and I think it is kind of re-enforced with my experience today.
Departing from my Pike Township-based home at about 6am and coming back at around 3pm, and using my bike for all transportation during that time, here's what I think could help this city get more people cycling:
Driver education: If you read any IndyStar.com article on bicycling, there are ALWAYS several comments complaining about cyclists. "They need to use the sidewalk" or "Get them off the road" or "They never stop at stop signs/lights/" and on and on and on. But today, a motorist stopped in the middle of the left traffic lane (I was in the right) to tell me "the trail is for bicycles". Bikes, according to Indiana Code, have full rights to the road as long as they are in compliance with the bike code (bell, a light or reflector on both ends, and breaks).
Cyclists should assume all motorists are idiots: When I was learning to drive, I was always taught by my parents to assume that all other drivers are idiots and to avoid getting into situations where an idiot makes a call that could affect my car or my health. Similarly, us cyclists should do the same for the motorists we share the road with.
Why do I say this? When I was turning onto Pennsylvania Street, with all the cars several dozen feet away at a red light, I turn left and all of a sudden see a red car coming right for me. I peddled quickly to the other side of the street to yell at the motorist who just turned the wrong way onto a one way street. While you don't normally think you need to look BOTH ways on a one way street, I might just start doing that. You can't trust other people with your safety.
Cyclists should call out our own: I don't mean go up to the complete stranger who just blew through a red light. But if you're biking in a group, insist that everyone follow the rules of the road. Lead by example.
Also, when the media reports on some jagoff bikers who brag about ignoring the rules of the road, someone from one of the several bicycling organizations needs to contact the media outlet and condemn the aforementioned jagoffs.
Take a friend: I was fortunate enough to often bike with my family or another group of cyclists when I started riding about two years ago. Instead of riding with the same group, invite someone else along. Let them borrow a helmet if they need to, and slow down so they can keep the pace.
Indy Go Involvment: I think downtown Indianapolis being easily navigable by bike is one of this city's best kept secrets. But unfortunately, more casual cyclists who live outside of downtown might find it a bit of a challenge to bike to their job downtown. If Indy Go offered free or reduced rates for one day and promoted certain routes for cyclists to get on board at, I think it could help attract more people to public transit and get more people to bike once they get into the general downtown area.