Jul 13, 2023 - Politics
Market Street

Indy's cycling and pedestrian activists are having a big year

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

This year's mayoral race already has one clear winner: urban activists.

Driving the news: Mayor Joe Hogsett's pledge to ticket and tow vehicles parked in bike lanes is a long-sought gain for social media users who document cars and trucks — in some cases owned by the city — that block paths for cyclists.

Between the lines: As the Democratic mayor seeks re-election, his administration is shoveling concessions to progressives who've spent years advocating to reorient Indianapolis away from cars.

Why it matters: The mayor's sharp focus on pedestrian and cycling safety shows he is listening to activists' demands and sees urban-friendly policies as a way to differentiate himself from Republican opponent Jefferson Shreve.

What they're saying: Eric Holt, who tracks pedestrian and cyclist deaths on the IndyPedCrisis Twitter account and circulated a questionnaire ahead of the May primary election, is not ready to hand it to Hogsett.

  • "Pedestrians and bicyclists continuing to die due to bad infrastructure choices by a city is never a win," Holt tells me, adding that "street safety advocates have been brushed off by the city for far too long."
  • Still, Holt said, "these recent announcements are all a step in the right direction."

Context: A record number of pedestrians died last year and cycling deaths are on the rise in Indianapolis.

My quick take: Hogsett is playing a numbers game in which he wins if he motivates a critical mass of Democrats to show up and vote for him.

The other side: Shreve was the only mayoral candidate who declined to respond to Holt's questionnaire before the primary.

  • In response to Axios' questions this spring, Shreve pivoted from street safety to violence, saying, "Monument Circle is in danger of being free of tourism and commerce because it is unsafe, not because vehicles are allowed on it."

The bottom line: An activist's job is never done, but street safety advocates have leveraged an election year to gain an upper hand.

  • "Early on, we were told by someone (with the city) that yelling on social media wouldn't accomplish anything," Holt tells me. "I'd tell other activists to keep yelling and keep up the pressure. Collect as much hard data as you can, and keep that data in front of your elected officials and local news media."

Market Street is a regular column about local politics and power. Send me tips: [email protected].

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