Bicycle & Pedestrian System Planning in Fishers
By: Nate Nickel
Many cities across Indiana are looking for ways to enhance non-motorized transportation options for their residents. In order to continue building and improving upon the community’s bicycle and pedestrian network, the Town of Fishers is developing a Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan. This planning effort seeks to develop and implement a pedestrian and bikeway system, which will create safe, attractive and convenient options for users of all experience levels.
According to Rachel Johnson, the Assistant Director of Planning for the Town of Fishers, Department of Community Development, the planning process started during the summer of 2013 as part of a comprehensive update to the Town’s transportation plan. At that time, the Town Council identified the need to address bicycle and pedestrian transportation issues, which had not been included in the previous transportation plan. A fairly extensive network of bicycle and pedestrian paths had been built throughout the community as part of recent developments, but there were still a number of missing links present in the system. Additionally, steady population growth, more new developments, a growing urban downtown environment, the popularity of the Nickel Plate District Amphitheater, and the town government’s upcoming transition to city status were all factors that played a role in highlighting the need to begin the development of this plan.
The Town applied for, and was awarded, a $20,000 grant from the Indiana State Department of Health, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity. These grant funds were matched with Town funds and used to hire a consultant to assist with developing the plan. The Town formally selected Rundell Ernstberger Associates and the Toole Design Group as their consultants. Work then began soon after on developing outreach efforts to solicit public feedback on the plan.
Two community forums were held to gather public input. These were utilized to both determine the destinations where people liked to currently bike or walk to, plus the destinations that they would like to connect with, but currently could not access. People also were able to identify areas of conflict, pinpoint gaps in the current bicycle and pedestrian system and talk directly with Town staff. Additionally, Wikimap, an online interactive public involvement platform, was used during this outreach process. It allowed participants to identify and comment on specific challenge areas, discuss opportunities to improve walking and biking, and read other people’s suggestions and ideas. Since it was an on-line tool, citizens were able to access and interact with the site at any time that was convenient for them. This was the first time that Fishers had ever used Wikimap, and according to Ms. Johnson, it was well utilized and received by the public.
Using the results of the community forums, specific recommendations were developed. A major focus was on the need to increase bicycle and pedestrian links to key destinations within Fishers, especially the downtown, as well as improving the circulation within neighborhoods. Providing an integrated system that better connects Fishers with other neighboring communities, such as Carmel and Noblesville, was another important element that was identified. The Plan also includes proposed infrastructure improvements, policy and program updates, specific design guidelines, implementation priorities and safety and education programs.
The Fishers Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan is currently still in draft form and Ms. Johnson expects that it will be considered by the Town Council in the fall of 2014. For more information, or to view a copy of the current draft Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, please visit the Town of Fishers Department of Community Development’s website, or contact them at (317) 595-3120.
(The author appreciates the helpful assistance provided by Rachel Johnson, Assistant Director of Planning for the Town of Fishers, Department of Community Development, in preparing this blog post, as well as providing the accompanying photos).