Bicycle Around the US: A Series

While the United States, as a whole, lags far behind Europe and Asia on building bicycle infrastructure and encouraging bicycling as an alternative transportation mode, more and more cities and states are making an effort. Of course, some places, like Portland, Oregon, have long encouraged bicycling. But it certainly isn't the only place. Even traditionally non-bicycling friendly places like, say, Indianapolis, are beginning to build paths and designated lanes.

In addition to writing about Bloomington's bicycle culture, I am going to start two new series here: one devoted to highlighting efforts from around the country to promote a bicycle culture or aid the growth of one that has already taken root, and a second focusing on laws and how they can be used to encourage or discourage this alternative form of transportation (the second one is of particular interest to me, given my legal background).

The first in this series is Memphis, Tennessee.  I have been to Memphis on several occasions, but it never once occurred to me to ride my bike. And I'm glad that I didn't because, according to the New York Times, until recently Memphis was the worst city in the country for bicycling. In 2008, it had only a mile and a half of bike lanes. Since 2009, Memphis has increased the number to 50 miles of designated (segregated) lanes, and it has a total of 160 miles of lanes (including shared) and paths. This is a HUGE growth. And it shows that when the political will is there, change can happen!

This is also great for the health of Memphis residents because the more they ride, the healthier they will be.  And the more that residents see others riding, the more they will be inspired to ride.  The more bikes on the road also mean fewer cars, which, in turn, means less pollution. It's a win for everyone.

Here is the article from the Times today. Enjoy and Happy Riding!

Taking a B-Line

When I stopped blogging, the city of Bloomington was just finishing up the first part of the "B-Line," a path on the old rail-line running North to South.  The path quickly perked up the style quotient for downtown B-town, replacing an old, barely walkable stone path with a nicely paved trail.  I wrote about this initial stage here.

Since then, Bloomington has extended the trail more than 3 miles, from Adams street to Country Club drive in the South.  The end of the B-line connects to the Bloomington Rail Trail, an unpaved path, which, in turn, connects to the Clear Creek Trail, a paved path that runs for a little over 2 miles.

Over the last few years, my family and I have gotten much use out of the B-Line.  The trail is only a couple of blocks from my house, and runs straight by my office, so I could easily get to work in about the same amount of time it takes to drive.  On weekends, we take the B-line to the Farmer's Market, waving and smiling at other early-morning exercisers and market-goers.

Two weekends ago, on a nice Saturday afternoon, we decided to explore the trail on our bikes.  We hopped on the B-line at Allen Street and headed South. First, over the (very steep) Bridge at Grimes. 

Then down to the Rail Trail.

Followed by the Clear Creek Trail.


The ride was beautiful, even in November. Along much of it, we could pretend we were on a Superhighway in Copenhagen or Amsterdam. Once you hit the B-line at Allen Street, heading South, you don't encounter cars again until Country Club Drive.  The Rails-to-Trails crosses at several points (without very good roadway designations), but the Clear Creek clearly marks pedestrian/bike crossings, and there are only a couple to navigate on otherwise lightly traveled roads. 

The smooth ride was enough to lull a toddler to sleep. 

The B-line is a great asset in our community, providing a quick way for people on the near-West side to head North or South with little vehicle interaction.  I certainly have much more to say about safety in Bloomington for cyclists, but for now, I only want to highlight the awesomeness that is the B-line. I don't have any numbers for use of the trail, but I do see many people going to and from downtown on their bikes or on foot.  The B-line is such a great way to get downtown, I hope that, as time goes on, more people choose to forgo their cars and ride on their bikes.

Happy Riding!

After a four-year absence, I decided to revive this blog.  I couldn't resist. Bloomington has undergone so many changes in its bike culture, I could no longer avoid writing about it!

You may be wondering where I went.  Four years ago, I started a job that required commuting most days to Indianapolis. Home to office, this was an hour and a half commute. I no longer found myself out on the streets as much, and, honestly, after a ten-hour work day, followed by a long commute, the  last thing I wanted to do was to sit down and blog.

After two years, my position at my job allowed me to work full-time from Bloomington, but, by that point, I was pregnant. And, really, let's be honest, I wasn't riding anywhere.  Now, 20 months after my son's birth, I am ready to start blogging again.  Since Aaron turned 13 months, we have been riding and exploring Bloomington on our bike. He loves it, and I appreciate those moments we have to talk about everything we see as we ride (very slowly) by.

I wasn't kidding when I said that the Bloomington bike scene has changed a ton in the last four years.  Four years ago, I rarely saw any other ladies venturing down the street in skirts and heels. And most bike riders were of the "serious" sort. Even when commuting, they preferred their mountain- or road bikes.

Then, Kazaam!, Bloomington was hipsterized, and now every where you look you see cool cats on fab urban (Dutch-style) bikes--and I see at least one lady in a skirt every day.  Bloomington has long been a racing and touring kind of town. We are home to the Little 500  and the Hilly Hundred. But thanks to Brooklyn and Portland, OR, we now have a new kind of riding in town. And, while I may snicker about hipsters, I am truly grateful that more people are on bikes, because regardless of the bicycle infrastructure, the more bikes we have on the road, the safer bike riding will be for all.

Oh, about that infrastructure! Bloomington has been busy.  Look, I'm not going to lie. I don't live in Copenhagen or Amsterdam. This is not Paris or Portland, Oregon. I am in the middle of red-state country. Most people here like their cars, and they like to drive, even though just about everything is within 2-4 miles. I also live in a city whose planners (and advisers) seem to be dominated by "vehicular cyclists," who oppose segregated lanes and paths. (This despite the fact that those lanes and paths will get more people on their bikes, and, as I already mentioned, more bikes = safer riding.) Anywho, Bloomington has been busy building paths and segregated lanes, and I am super-excited to illustrate this new infrastructure in coming days and weeks! I believe in giving props where props is due.

So, until then, Happy Riding!