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Indianapolis: Where the Streets Have No Lights

The IndyStar shines a light on the city of Indianapolis' neglect of its infrastructure.
September 22, 2016, 6am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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That's a temporary solution to a lack of streetlights.
Alexey Stiop

A feature article by John Tuohy and Tony Cook documents the consequences of a decision to stop installing streetlights in Indianapolis, made by the city's leaders 35 years ago. The article starts with the tragic story of Amohd Welbon-Cook, when the driver of a blue Chevrolet Avalanche struck and killed him on an unlit stretch of stretch of Georgetown Road.

In other cities, the motorist might have noticed a pedestrian walking along a busy, high-speed street such as Georgetown Road because it likely would have been illuminated by the most basic of city services — a streetlight.

Compounding the public safety problems presented by the city's lack of streetlights, according to Tuohy and Cook, is the city's lack of sidewalks. In sum, Indianapolis is lacking the infrastructure to make for safe pedestrian mobility.

An IndyStar investigation found that 585 pedestrians have been killed in Marion County since the streetlight ban in 1980. Last year, 27 pedestrians were run down, more than in any year since the moratorium started.

According to the article, the lack of pedestrian infrastructure highlights a failure of priorities in the city. While pedestrian safety suffered for lack of decent infrastructure, "billions of dollars flowed to grand Downtown developments, generally celebrated by politicians, the business community and the media as improvements to the city’s quality of life."

The long-read, feature-length article provides more anecdotes and historic examples of the impact of the city's lack of infrastructure. The article also details the financial and political history behind the decision to stop installing streetlights.

For more reading on the subject, Planetizen noted back in June that the city began installing new streetlights for the first time in 35 years. Aaron Renn also offers his perspective on the city's lack of pedestrian infrastructure, describing the situation as a symptom of a much larger problem with streets and alleys around the city.

Full Story:
Published on Sunday, September 18, 2016 in Indystar
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