Bloomington recently (this Spring) completed construction on a bike and pedestrian underpass under the very busy 45/46 Bypass. This is a very busy road in town that was recently widened to four lanes in that section. Sadly in the past there was no good way to get across on a bike or on foot … you had to just wait for a gap in traffic, which could sometimes take several minutes. When I lived on the east side of Bloomington, I had to cross the Bypass twice daily on my bicycle commute, and it was often a source of frustration.
So, has the city fixed the problem? To find out, I incorporated the underpass in a recent ride, since I had yet to see it.
I like the idea of an underpass, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. You have to go well out of your way to reach the underpass. Whether you’re coming from the east side or the west side, it appears that you have to cross the the Bypass immediately ahead of you to get to the other side. It’s not at all obvious that if you go down another path, there is a safer crossing.
The underpass is at least half a block out of the way, and from the east side I also had to counterintuitively ride on a bike path against the flow of traffic, crossing a few driveways, which could be dangerous. Overall the extra distance only adds a few minutes on a bike, but it would actually add significant travel time if you were on foot.
The path also has some switchbacks in it, which are kind of fun, and help slow down bike traffic and make the grade less steep.
Here is the underpass itself
The other main problem that I see is that the whole thing is very poorly marked. I saw no signs even indicating that the underpass existed in logical places. Also, a number of different paths converge at the underpass, with no indication of where they lead. Finally, when I got to the other side of the underpass and came to an intersection, there was no indication of where to go.
Fortunately, I know my way around that area well, so I knew where to go, but not everyone does.
I’ve seen people still running across the Bypass on foot. I don’t know if they didn’t want to go out of their way to use the underpass, or if they didn’t know it was there. Now that the Bypass is 4 lanes of traffic, running across it is more dangerous than before. If this piece of infrastructure is going to be useful to anyone, they have to know it’s there. I personally think it’s too far out of the way to be useful for pedestrians, but on my bike, I will take advantage of it.