Maumee River Dam, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Sorry, I couldn’t resist a “dam” joke.

Yesterday was my test commute ride to Navistar in Fort Wayne. This is the first whole weekend day I’ve spent here, so I decided to try out a bike route to work. The weather was truly magnificent; the sun was shining, the birds were singing, it was a beautiful day!

I have been a lump since I stopped riding last October, so this was a good start to my riding season. I do my test rides on the weekend so I don’t have to worry about getting lost and being late for work. I get a chance to see the route first hand, and not from a year (or two) old satellite photo, but I don’t get an idea of how the traffic will be. I would prefer not to have to worry about traffic, but this ain’t Amsterdam.

A designated bike route in Fort Wayne

The possible routes from my apartment on the north side to Navistar on the southeast side are constrained by geographical and infrastructural features that really mess up a nice direct route. Things like rivers and interstates seem to have perplexed the architects of Fort Wayne’s roadways. There is simply no easy way to get to Navistar by bicycle from the north side. that is to say, no car traffic-free way.

To the credit of Fort Wayne, they are making an effort to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. They are developing a system of greenways along the three rivers that trisect the city: The St. Marys River, St . Joseph River, and Maumee River. The rivers flow between my apartment and Navistar, so I must find a route that gets me across the rivers without taking me too far out of my way, and the greenways serve that purpose. Getting to the greenways is the problem.

My best route from here to there in Fort Wayne.

The fact remains that if you’re not on one of the greenways, you’re on a road that does little to accommodate bicycles. You can put up all the “share the road” signs you want, but improve the infrastructure to give bicycles a little more margin for safety. A dedicated bike lane would be great, but a wide shoulder does nicely for me.

Today I left work at approximately the time I might leave if I rode my bike, and paid close attention to the traffic on Coldwater Road, the more or less straight North-South top half of the route  (see the map), for which there is no better alternative. It truly made me reconsider bike commuting here. The morning ride would be early enough that traffic is pretty light and I could have a lane to myself. Or, at least the right tire path. Rush hour going back north? Two lanes of solid cars jockeying for position, merging from the interstate, and generally making me feel stressed.

I have learned of the “Bike Fort Wayne Plan,” which is an effort to make a safe and efficient transportation system that “accommodates a range of transportation choices” including bicycles. The map of this plan does not include anything to ease my fears of Coldwater road at rush hour, so I have little hope for the future of bicyclists in Greater Fort Wayne, at least those who live in my apartment complex.

I have, on the other hand, great hope for a bicycle commute to the near future home of my company in Lisle, Illinois, from the (hopefully) future home of my family in Geneva, Illinois. You can count on post about my test ride later this spring.