Most people would acknowledge it's tough to stick to a diet.
Indianola Avenue, however, has stayed on its "road diet" for a year and half now.
Is Indianola Avenue better or worse since it was reduced in 2017 to one lane in each direction between Morse Road and North Broadway? We have an update on the road in this week's Clintonville Booster:https://t.co/ArGaN0YY4l— ThisWeekNEWS (@ThisWeekNews)January 21, 2019
City leaders say the restriping of the thoroughfare to reduce it to one driving lane in each direction is fulfilling its duty, though not all residents agree.
In the months and weeks leading up to the project to reduce the road from four lanes to two and add bike lanes and a center-turn lane, several residents found the idea so problematic they were moved to write letters to the editor of The Columbus Dispatch.
The consensus: The project was unnecessary, a classic example of a solution in search of a problem.
Among those who wrote was Nancy Beja, a Clintonville resident since 1967.
"A city doesn't necessarily have to spend money just because it is allocated," she wrote in the letter published Aug. 25, 2016.
The road diet has been in place since late summer 2017, but Beja is sticking to her guns.
"I think it's gotten worse, mainly because initially they narrowed the street ... and to have only cars going in one direction each way is terrible," she said Jan. 17. "To get stuck behind a bus, forget it. I see some cars going down side streets. I've seen maybe three bikers."
Reynaldo Stargell, administrator for the Columbus Division of Traffic Management, and Clintonville Area Commission District 9 representative B.J. White don't share that opinion.>> Road diet: 5 pros, 3 cons <<
Both said the new configuration of Indianola Avenue between East North Broadway and Morse Road is working well, achieving its intended purpose of cutting down speed on the road and making it safer for cyclists, and local leaders say complaints have been minimal since the work was completed.
"Overall, the road diet is functioning as intended," Stargell said. "Before-and-after data shows that speeds are operating closer to the posted speed limit (of 35 mph) and the two-way left-turn lane provides a more comfortable means of making left turns throughout the corridor."
The previous configuration required left-turning motorists to turn from the left travel lane.
Speed and volume measurements taken before and after the project indicate the road diet is cutting down on speeding, according to Stargell.
"This was done by placing devices onto the roadway that are able to take traffic counts and speed information," he wrote in an email.
"From this data, the 85th percentile speed is used as this is the average speed for 85 percent of drivers. Data taken prior to the project showed multiple locations with drivers moving in excess of 40 mph. Post-completion, that speed has been reduced by approximately 5 mph, thus moving traffic speed closer to the posted 35 mph speed limit."
Stargell also said the new bike lanes "tie in nicely" with the Clintonville Bikeways effort that began last summer, for which various streets were marked as bike-friendly passages via signs and painted pavement.
"Providing better bicycle connectivity is something that we continue to explore throughout the city," he said.
In addition, White maintains the road diet is serving to spur development in that stretch of Indianola and could serve as a model for other roads in Columbus.
She cited as examples the Deco apartment complex at 3450 Indianola Ave., a 552-unit apartment complex under construction at 3636 Indianola Ave. and other developments.
"I think to appreciate the road diet, you have to understand how that functions as a component to the overall growth and development of the Indianola Avenue corridor," White said. "With the new planning policies that are still forthcoming, this is just foreshadowing of what I see a lot of the city of Columbus doing. It's been done on Karl Road. It's been done on Fishinger.
"It's done as traffic calming. It's not to cater to cyclists but as a way and means of traffic calming."
An article on the website of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, a multidisciplinary think tank at Rice University in Houston, shows that numerous reviews of road diets back up the conclusions of Stargell and White, but no amount of data thus far has convinced a doubting public to buy in readily.
"Before-and-after studies of road-diet projects have given the Federal Highway Administration and local transportation departments the confidence to declare it a cheap way to reduce vehicle collisions and make roads more bike- and pedestrian-friendly," the article states.
"FHA studies of road-diet projects have found simply reducing the number of lanes dedicated to cars cuts vehicle crashes by 19 to 52 percent as a result of reduced speeds and fewer opportunities for collisions."
The FHA's website says an additional benefit of road diets, along with the reduced-crash rate, is that they allow "reclaimed space to be allocated for other uses, such as turn lanes, bus lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, bike lanes, sidewalks, bus shelters, parking or landscaping."
"Nonetheless, cities continue to face local opposition when pursuing individual road-diet projects," the Kinder Institute article says.
The local opposition in Clintonville included dozens of people who voiced objections and raised concerns as the project was approaching.
Randy Ketcham, the District 6 CAC representative, still agrees with them.
"What really annoys me about this project, and I still stand by it, is that this is a tremendous amount of money to solve a problem that wasn't really there," he said. "If you want to change the speed limit, this is not the way to do it. They could have used that money a lot better, I think.
"It just seemed like they had a pot of money that was available and the city planned to spend it because it was there."
Nevertheless, Stargell said, city officials are looking to replicate the road-diet approach elsewhere.
"The road-diet concept is being investigated on other roadways throughout the city," he said.
"In some cases, we're able to remove a lane of traffic to reallocate the space to bike lanes ... or on-street parking."
He cited recent work on Sullivant Avenue as an example of the latter.
Stargell said the city sometimes looks for ways to efficiently use the pavement that's available without removing lanes, pointing to Arcadia Avenue, which will gain an eastbound bike lane as part of a resurfacing project this year.
He said few post-construction issues were raised when the Indianola Avenue work was finished just before the start of the 2017-18 school year.
"We've received a handful of 311s since the final configuration was installed," Stargell said, referring to Columbus' city-services call center. "Shortly after opening to traffic, we made some tweaks at the intersection of Indianola-Morse and have made some minor signal-timing changes throughout the corridor.
"We haven't seen any noticeable issues since then but will continue to monitor the corridor."
White said she hasn't heard much in the way of complaints from residents of District 9, which stretches to the north edge of Morse Road.
"People who live in my district, the worst I heard was, 'I used to be able to take my child down to Indianola (Informal) K-8 (School) and be on my way to work and it used to be a 10- to 15-minute commute, and now it takes me 20 minutes,' " she said. "The inconvenience to that particular person was about a five- to 10-minute difference.
"I am seeing more and more cyclists using that as probably a safer way of going north- and southbound rather than be cycling and pedaling along High Street."