B-Line Trail

“This is the most significant economic development project on the City’s agenda. It’s monumental in its scope and importance.” – Mayor Mark Kruzan

Chiara sent me the city’s page about this project.  Sadly, while I was aware of the city’s plans to turn the old CSX railroad grade that runs through downtown into a bike path, I didn’t know exactly what the form of that consturction would be.  Also sadly, I missed out on the public comment opportunities that seemed to happen in the last year.  Phase I construction starts summer 2007. 

The mockup photo above is pretty silly looking with an ugly, expensive-looking Columbus, Indiana style bridge replacing the charming stencil-artwork covered train bridge that now crosses 3rd St.  I also thought it was funny how the plan depicts murals on the back of the convetion center, but how a friend’s charming stencil mural of manatees near that area was painted over in a matter of days.

Of course I like bike paths, but this project seems expensive for something that seems like it could be usefully constructed in a much more simple way.  My concerns are that the project would be constructed with the primary intent being recreation and commerce with no regard to the trail as a transporation route.  The implication of this is that it further solidifies the perception (most dangerously by motorists) that cycling or other pedestrian traffic exists only as a recereational activity and not as a legitimate or desireable mode of transportation.  Traversing the 3 lanes of traffic on a north-south journey on Walnut or College is one of the more harrowing cycling experiences in town, and it seems like this trail, paralleling those streets, with the proper support, could be invaluable for encouraging bike use to travel around the city. 

From an asthetic standpoint, what I miss as a geographical feature in Bloomington as a river.  I think it’s an interesting design paradigm, to approach something like a bike path as a geographic feature that gives continuity to a landscape or area rather than as a development platform for commerce or park structures.  I guess what I like about train tracks, or rivers is their isolation from their surroundings and how one’s interaction with the geography can be pretty personal and unmediated.  Ugly bridges, excercise courses and coffe kiosks seem to be pretty far from all of that. Link