Unanimous, bipartisan support for Complete Streets ordinance in Indianapolis

Our thanks to Paul Chase of AARP Indiana for submitting today’s post.

Getting around in Indianapolis, by bike, bus, and car. Photo: Flickr.com user Steve Baker.
Getting around in Indianapolis, by bike, bus, and car. Photo: Flickr.com user Steve Baker.

Last Monday, the City-County Council of Indianapolis unanimously approved a measure to make the city’s streets safer and more convenient for all travelers, whether they are on a bicycle, in a car, riding the bus, or on foot.

Indianapolis’ Complete Streets Ordinance calls for planners to consider infrastructure for all road users when designing or rebuilding roads in the city.

“As Indianapolis continues to grow, it is essential we plan for the safe and mixed use of our streets and sidewalks,” City-County Council President Maggie Lewis said in a prepared statement.

The road to passage of Indianapolis’ Complete Streets Ordinance began in June 2009, with a one-and-a-half day statewide workshop co-sponsored by National Complete Streets Coalition members AARP Indiana and Health by Design. Nationally-renowned Complete Streets expert Randy Neufeld provided a keynote speech and facilitated the discussion. More than 150 stakeholders participated in the event, including City-County Council President Lewis, who at the time was the newest member of the Council. Lewis ultimately co-authored the ordinance.

Councilor Lewis and her colleagues began their initial work in the fall of that year and included discussions about a city/county-wide resolution, as well as ongoing education of stakeholders and key decision makers. In January 2010, AARP Indiana and Health by Design launched the Indiana Complete Streets Campaign, which now includes more than 75 organizations and 250 individuals.

Meanwhile, AARP Indiana began conducting walkability assessments in various locations around the state, including in the Indianapolis/Marion County area. Not only did this work engage neighborhood associations and local residents, it also brought greater awareness to City-County Council members and ultimately helped enlist their support for the ordinance.

Beginning in September 2011, the Indiana Complete Streets Campaign began meeting regularly and discussing policy language with the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Public Works, the Office of Sustainability, community groups, and other advocacy organizations. Together, they drafted initial language for the ordinance and helped the City finalize strong ordinance language.

In March 2012, the campaign went into full advocacy mode, sending letters to the editor, meeting with the editorial boards of major Indianapolis newspapers, reaching out to neighborhood associations, and circulating an online petition that gathered more than 1,000 signatures. The campaign met with Council members, earned media attention, and gathered signatures for a sign-on letter that eventually drew support from 61 local and statewide organizations. The campaign delivered this letter to all 29 City-County Council members prior to a public hearing on the ordinance. AARP Indiana also ran a series of 30-second spots on local public radio beginning shortly after introduction of the ordinance in June. After the final passage, these messages thank the Council members for their unanimous vote in support of the ordinance.

Bipartisan support was key to passage of Indianapolis’ Complete Streets Ordinance. At the time of passage, six Democrats had signed on as sponsors, including Council President Lewis. Three Republicans had also signed on, including Minority Leader Mike McQuillen. The Indiana Complete Streets Campaign continues to meet regularly as it seeks to pass ordinances in several other promising cities around the state, as well as statewide legislation in the 2013 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

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Complete Streets