When a portion of Indianola Avenue slims down this summer after going on a "road diet," some residents are predicting a spectacular fail.
In a scenario that's being played out across the country, traffic engineers maintain that four-lane roads reduced to three to add bicycle lanes are vastly safer and can handle just as much traffic.
People who frequently drive these streets look at the new configuration and say, "No way!"
"Famously car-centric Los Angeles has proposed an ambitious plan to replace dozens of miles of car lanes with public facilities geared towards buses, bikes and pedestrians," according to a 2015 posting on the website of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University. "Though the concept has won plaudits in many circles, it's also generating opposition from community groups who think the city's intentionally making it so miserable to drive that people will have no choice but to choose other ways to travel.
"Despite the controversy, as far as the federal government is concerned, it's a settled issue: road diets work."
They might elsewhere, but not on the section of Indianola Avenue proposed for the treatment, maintains ardent local opponent Tim Monaghan. The Brevoort Road resident, who often drives on Indianola between East North Broadway and Morse Road, has conducted some research -- make that a lot of research -- that he feels proves trimming travel lanes along that stretch will only increase traffic woes.
Monaghan said he believes the biggest factor he uncovered is that the engineer for the consulting firm working on the road-diet project relied on traffic counts that date back more than six years. Even then, Monaghan said last week, the number of vehicles per day on Indianola was higher, at 22,000, than the 20,000 threshold normally used to justify road-diet conversion.
The Indianola Avenue project is scheduled for completion this year at a cost of $275,000, using Urban Infrastructure Recovery Fund dollars.
"Right away I (thought), wait a minute; they're talking about information that was from 2010," Monaghan said. "I started doing just general research on road diets. From looking at it in my head, this just doesn't seem like a good idea. Here we are a growing community and we're cutting down on travel lanes."
Clintonville Area Commission Chairwoman Libby Wetherholt said last week she continues to be surprised by the vehemence with which some residents oppose the Indianola Avenue project, but she puts her faith in its engineers.
"They're not going to do this if it doesn't make sense," she said. "(Monaghan) has done a lot of research, but he is not a traffic engineer, and that's all I can say. I'm not either."
Andrew Overbeck, chairman of the CAC's planning and development committee, which recommended projects for the UIRF program, said everyone's entitled to an opinion.
"I think there is probably a noisy minority out there," he said. "There are a certain number of folks who just don't believe that the traffic study shows that the same volume of traffic can be handled as well in three (lanes)."
"I don't think anybody really has all the details on it," Monaghan said. "It kind of feels like a shell game that everybody's playing."
Four-lane undivided highways such as Indianola Avenue have a history of relatively high crash rates, as the inside lanes are shared by higher-speed through traffic and left-turning vehicles, according to the Road Diet Information Guide put out by the Federal Highway Administration Safety Program.
The guide states a road diet -- with one lane for vehicles in each direction flanking a shared turn lane -- allows the extra space to be made into bike lanes or other uses, such as pedestrian refuge islands, transit stops and parking spots.
Monaghan argued the Indianola project makes no provisions for COTA buses stopping to take on and discharge passengers, and that this fact alone will lead to traffic snarls during peak hours.
"I have a list of questions that I can't seem to get answered," he said, including whether growth rates were factored into the report, whether local businesses were involved in the planning process, and if alternate traffic-calming methods were considered.
"This is something that affects the whole community, so if we are not going to be allowed to vote on this, I would like to be given the opportunity to present what I have found and get questions answered," Monaghan said.
Overbeck, however, said safety is the most important consideration.
"I think the thing that's continually ignored by those who focus on traffic volumes and disbelieve the outcome of the traffic study is it's been proven that the ... traffic crashes are reduced by 19 to 47 percent," he said.
"It's going to make Indianola safer for all users: drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. I think that's what we need to focus on. It's really unsafe out there."