Temporary bicycle lanes span along the south side of Market Street from South Columbia Street to South Lake Street. The goal is to define a bike path for bicyclists along the Warsaw street, with the eventual goal being to create a safe bike path from the Chinworth Bridge Trail to Winona Lake. Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for the temporary bicycle lanes. Pictured (L to R) are Scott Wiley, Chamber member relations manager; Scott Clay, NAPA Auto Parts, Chamber ambassador; Shawn Brown, Lake City Living, Chamber ambassador; Kurt Boggs, PNC Investments, Chamber ambassador; Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer; Bekah Schrag, Warsaw assistant city planner; Kaleb Schneidewent, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, Chamber ambassador; Fred Helfrich, Kosciusko County Velo Cycling Club; Craig Allebach, Winona Lake town manager; Morgan Woodcock, Northwest Bank, Chamber ambassador; Shelley Dobbins, Ruoff Mortgage, Chamber ambassador; Laura Rothhaar, Kosciusko County Visitors Bureau marketing and communications manager; Heather Lardino, 1st Source Bank, Chamber ambassador; and Rob Parker, Chamber president and CEO. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Temporary bicycle lanes span along the south side of Market Street from South Columbia Street to South Lake Street. The goal is to define a bike path for bicyclists along the Warsaw street, with the eventual goal being to create a safe bike path from the Chinworth Bridge Trail to Winona Lake. Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for the temporary bicycle lanes. Pictured (L to R) are Scott Wiley, Chamber member relations manager; Scott Clay, NAPA Auto Parts, Chamber ambassador; Shawn Brown, Lake City Living, Chamber ambassador; Kurt Boggs, PNC Investments, Chamber ambassador; Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer; Bekah Schrag, Warsaw assistant city planner; Kaleb Schneidewent, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, Chamber ambassador; Fred Helfrich, Kosciusko County Velo Cycling Club; Craig Allebach, Winona Lake town manager; Morgan Woodcock, Northwest Bank, Chamber ambassador; Shelley Dobbins, Ruoff Mortgage, Chamber ambassador; Laura Rothhaar, Kosciusko County Visitors Bureau marketing and communications manager; Heather Lardino, 1st Source Bank, Chamber ambassador; and Rob Parker, Chamber president and CEO. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union
Imagine safely riding a bicycle, jogging with a friend or walking your dog from the Chinworth Bridge Trail, through downtown Warsaw and all the way to Christ Covenant Church in Winona Lake.

Temporary bike lanes on the south side of Market Street between South Columbia and Lake streets are in place now through the end of September to help facilitate the completion of the pathway.

Tuesday afternoon, the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the temporary lanes to bring attention to them and the ultimate plan.

Fred Helfrich, Kosciusko County Velo Cycling Club advocacy chairman, said, “This is a temporary - emphasize the word temporary, it’s going to be here for about two months - what they refer to as a cycle track, so it’s a buffer space for bicyclists and pedestrians away from traffic. Obviously, we’ve created a physical buffer between the traffic and the area.”

Going east on Market Street up to South Columbia Street, there’s a long, wide sidewalk (side path) that stops at the U.S. Post Office.

“Ultimately, we’d like to connect that with the same thing that stops at the railroad tracks (by Little Crow) on the other end. So this is sort of an experiment to see how do we get through the downtown, how do we get cyclists safely through the downtown in a space that they’re comfortable with,” Helfrich said.

From the Chinworth Bridge to Christ Covenant Church is over 8 miles, he said.

“So the side path he’s talking about is part of the backbone of the cycle trail,” Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said. “And the side path ends at Columbia Street there and it ends down at Little Crow. So we’re trying to make that final connection in the cycle track that the group has worked so hard on.”

Preliminary engineering and drawings have been completed on it to show how it could work in downtown Warsaw.

“This brings it out to the public so that they can understand how it works, how traffic patterns might differ a bit, accommodate folks to get through to get into our downtown, to get to the parks, to get to the schools, to get to our farmers market, to enjoy our downtown. To connect Winona with Warsaw. To go from one end to another. This is the last section of the entire trail,” Thallemer said.

Obviously, he said, it will take some time and resources to get it finished, but “we want to start the conversation now so that folks understand what we’re trying to do and can adapt to it.”

He said no parking will be eliminated. Temporarily, it might look like it with the temporary bike lanes, but “the way it’s designed, all parking remains. So that’s something that is very important to understand right up front.”

The temporary lanes are just to give people “awareness” of an extra path for pedestrians and cyclists, Thallemer said. “It makes our community a lot more connectable.”

The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place across from the former Owen’s Supermarket location at the corner of Columbia and Market streets.

“We’re standing across the street from a potential large residential project, that again is going to connect our communities, be a part of our community and we want it all to be connected. This is kind of a temporary, preliminary look at what things could look like in the future,” Thallemer said.

The whole idea of the temporary lanes are for people to notice and ask questions.

“That’s the crux of it,” Helfrich said. “If you go on Facebook and look under Ride+Walk, you’ll find a survey related to this. We’re looking for feedback. The last thing we want is to do something, pack up our tent and go away and nobody says anything. We’ll take straight, honest, negative feedback. If you don’t like it, tell us why. Let us understand what the barriers are.”

Thallemer said they want everyone to understand what the purpose of the temporary lanes are.

“This isn’t the final product. Mr. Helfrich was a Councilman and he understands you don’t just come out and paint lines and it’s done. We want people to come out and talk about it, but we want people to engage. We want to do better by hearing what they have to say. That’s what this is about. It’s not about coming out and trying to create a problem. It’s creating a solution, quite frankly,” he said.

Helfrich said there’s a bunch of different ways to do this, to solve this problem, and they want to do it in as painless of a way as possible, not just for bicyclists and pedestrians but also for people driving their cars through the high-traffic area.

“But these connections allow folks, from the other side of Winona, to get out to the CCAC and there’s a void downtown and that’s what we’re trying to fill. We want it to be safe. We want people to get downtown safely, stay downtown, move through, but you’ve got to be a little more purposeful on how you get pedestrian and bike traffic through a busy area, and we’ve really looked at resources to get this done. Communities have created solutions - some as simple as this - but we’re not stopping here. We want to do something that’s going to work for everyone and make the downtown better for all merchants, for all of our recreational amenities, for our residents. There’s just too much opportunity downtown to ignore those folks that want to walk or ride their bikes downtown,” Thallemer said.

While it would be great to get something done in the next couple of years, Helfrich said there’s no timeline as it takes a lot of resources.

“We want to look back and say, ‘We learned this from our set-up.’ That’s why we’re doing it,” Thallemer said. “I think that’s the crux of why we’re here today. We’re doing some studying, some research and some community awareness.”