A new initiative is underway in Columbus that’s exploring options to make the city safer for bicycles and pedestrians and to improve the overall health of Columbus residents.

Reach Healthy Communities received a $125,000 Plan4Health grant in March from the American Planning Association to design a program that would enable residents to walk or bike around the city more often, helping reduce obesity and other weight-related issues.

With the grant money, Reach Healthy Communities is partnering with the City of Columbus-Bartholomew County Planning Department on three health initiatives to deliberately design the city’s infrastructure to promote a lifestyle of health and wellness throughout the city.

“We have the People Trails. But if you can’t get to the roads, you’ve still got an issue,” said Jeff Bergman, planning director.

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At a Plan4Health open house Thursday night, residents were introduced to the first initiative — an analysis of the bicycle and pedestrian crossings in the neighborhoods between Noblitt, Donner and Lincoln parks.

Residents who attended the open house were asked to provide feedback about the design of crossings at five key intersections in three areas in those neighborhoods:

17th and Washington streets

Central Avenue and 17th, 19th streets

Hawcreek Avenue and 17th, 19th streets

Stations were set up throughout the open house where participants could indicate how often they used these intersections and how comfortable they felt crossing them, especially during rush hour.

The intersections at Central Avenue were particularly concerning to residents, who said those areas aren’t conducive to an active lifestyle.

Maddy Halloran, a Columbus resident who bikes frequently, said she doesn’t feel safe at either of the Central Avenue intersections because there are no pedestrian crossing traffic signals.

“It’s not easy to get across there,” Halloran said. “The street is so wide.”

Penny Shumard, another Columbus bike rider, said she’s noticed other pedestrian crossing signals that count down the time she has to cross the intersection, a feature she said would make her feel safer.

“It would help to see how many seconds you have left,” Shumard said.

The second initiative under the Plan4Health grant explores options to improve three intersections on major thoroughfares:

U.S. 31 and Westenedge Drive

State Road 46 and Goeller Boulevard

State Road 46 and Westwood Boulevard

Residents could complete a survey to provide feedback for those intersections, but the two organizations will have to work closely with the Indiana Department of Transportation to make any changes, said Laura Garrett, the community initiatives lead for Reach Healthy Communities.

Bergman said the planning department and Reach Healthy Communities will take the results of Thursday night’s open house and the surveys and use the feedback to begin formulating a plan to improve the selected intersections.

Garrett said she would like to present the organizations’ ideas to the public later this year. The organizations will work with DLZ, an Indianapolis architecture, engineering and planning company, to complete the intersection improvements.

The final initiative involves the creation of a public awareness campaign to promote the importance of making the city safer for bicycles and pedestrians.

As part of that campaign, representatives from the Walkable and Liveable Communities Institute will visit Columbus in October, when they will give public presentations, present photo visions for the community and use other strategies to promote a lifestyle of physical activity throughout Columbus.

For more information

For more information on the Plan4Health initiative or the possible improvements discussed at Thursday’s open house, contact:

  • Emilie Pinkston, senior planner, 812-376-2550
  • Laura Garrett, community initiatives lead, 812-375-3994 or lgarrett@crh.org

Possible intersection improvements

At Thursday’s open house, Reach Healthy Communities and the planning department presented eight possible ways local pedestrian and bike crossings can be improved:

  • Colored/textured sidewalks
  • Flashing warning lights
  • Overhead signs, with or without flashing warning lights
  • In-pavement crossing lights, with cars required to stop at lights
  • Raised crosswalks to reduce vehicle speeds
  • Rectangular rapid flashing beacon connected to crossing sign
  • Pedestrian hybrid hawk signs above intersections
  • Striped crosswalk
Author photo
Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.