Cycling advocates continue to push for safety changes at Monon Trail Crossing

Cycling advocates continue to push for safety changes at Monon Trail Crossing

Frank Radeker was killed while crossing East 86th Street on the Monon Trail.

Indianapolis – Connie Szabo Schmacker is an avid cyclist who uses the Monon Trail almost every day.

“I usually ride about 4,000 miles a year,” she said.

At a stretch of 25 miles, she said, one of the most dangerous crossings is on 86th Street.

“You have a lot of traffic going in different directions, a lot of turns on the red and speeding up traffic,” Szabo Schmucker said.

That’s why a supporter of Garage Indy bikes continues to push for safety changes at this crossover.

“It just looks like a footpath. You have no idea a million people cross here every year,” Szabo Schmoker said.

It’s a battle that became personal last year, when her boyfriend and beloved cyclist Frank Radeker was injured and killed on his bike at the 86th Street intersection.

“When I got the call that he was killed, I was like, ‘How could Frank be killed? “Frank was one of the safest riders I ever knew,” said Szabo Schmoker. “It really struck a chord with the entire cycling community, because everyone who knew him or didn’t even know him said, ‘It could have been me.’”

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After the tragic accident, Szabo Schmucker met up with the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council. At the meeting, she presented a list of safety measures that the city, individuals and organizations could take.

The city then updated its full street policy, which requires road projects to take into account all road users, including cyclists and pedestrians. City officials also added a fatal accident review team to address malfunctions and if infrastructure played a role.

The Indianapolis Department of Public Works also added a new “No red turn” sign at the intersection.

Despite the changes, advocates say it’s not enough.

“A lot of the infrastructure stuff that could be done quickly just didn’t happen,” said Szabo Schmucker.

Its top priority will be to build a tunnel at the 86th Street intersection, but the city says the solution will be costly and time-consuming.

So, in the meantime, Szabo Schmucker was more focused on short-term solutions.

Last July, volunteers conducted a citizen-led safety study. Within five hours, they recorded 240 incidents. Szabo Schmucker said they counted at least 93 cars turning red, 44 cars blocking the pedestrian lane and 11 cars turning red.

It is also working with the Nora Alliance, a neighborhood nonprofit, to apply for the State Grant for Tactical Urbanization. It will allow them to make temporary changes to the crossing, including widening and strengthening the corners of the sidewalks as well as making the crossing more visible.

RELATED: City leaders, Indy cyclists push for road safety improvements

If the Nora Alliance receives the grant, it will still need to obtain permission from the Department of Public Works to test any changes.

So far, Szabo Schmucker said 15 companies and organizations have signed letters of support for the grant, including IndyGo.

“It’s frustrating that we have to face this problem, that we have to put so much effort into making changes to save lives,” she said.

On Wednesday, a DPW spokesperson said the crossing is entirely controlled by traffic lights and includes all standard signage.

They also said that the crossing “has the lowest number of pedestrian-vehicle collisions for intersections along Monon Road. Almost all crash reports in our database for this intersection are attributed to a motorist who ignored existing signs/signals.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett’s proposed budget for 2023, approved last month, includes new investment for a specific traffic safety engineer position, as well as $1 million for intersection safety upgrades at high crash-volume sites across the county.

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