2011 in Review: Bicycles make progress 

Bike lanes in Indy grew to 64 miles of terrain.
  • Bike lanes in Indy grew to 64 miles of terrain.

People around the country will remember the evening in August that produced some of the most severe weather of the year; that was also the evening of the Mass Avenue Criterium. The final race was cut short because of the weather, but not before Eric Young (Bissell) rode to victory, followed closely by Kirk Albers (Panther), Chad Burdzilauskas (Texas Roadhouse), Jon Jacob (NUVO) and Weston Luzadder (Jamis/Sutter-Home). The Criterium keeps gaining riders, events, and fans — and this year it ended safely, with high drama and excellent competition.

Indianapolis is home to Marian University and the Major Taylor Velodrome: a rare and impressive cycling track. Marian has a history of top-notch cycling and this year was no exception. In September, over 35 colleges and universities were represented in the USA Collegiate Track Nationals. Marian won Division I, with 1,004 points.

Big changes continue for the Mayor Taylor Velodrome. Officials plan to bid for a national-level race in 2014, and Marian University has acquired the surrounding Lake Sullivan Sports Complex. Marian will continue to make improvements to the track and park, including the reconstruction of the BMX park and a permanent 1.5-mile cyclocross course is in the works. Cyclocross is the off-road version of bike racing. In fact, sometimes in Cyclocross it's impossible to even be on a bike, and cyclists are forced to carry their bikes up stairs and steep hills. It's riding the roughest terrain. But it's excellent conditioning for cyclists in the off-season.

All these exciting developments in 2011 led to USA Cycling naming Marian University the 2011 "Collegiate Club of the Year." Additional factors (beyond the above) included team members, including Coryn Rivera, Kaitlin Antonneau, and Adam Leibovitz, reaching an average GPA of 3.04 in 2011.

Major merger

click to enlarge Major Taylor Velodrome, in action.
  • Major Taylor Velodrome, in action.

Rumors started circulating around the cycling community in Indianapolis, and in November, they were confirmed: The NUVO Cultural Trail Cycling team merged with the Bissel Masters/Elite Cycling team, to form one single USA Cycling NRC Amateur team for 2012 and beyond. This means more attention to elite cycling in Indianapolis, and it also means more money raised for an outstanding organization. The team is dedicated to donating a portion of its prize money to World Bicycle Relief, which provides bicycles to use for transportation to people in Africa, and around the world. Transportation allows for education, healthcare, and so many other needs that some people are fortunate enough to take for granted.

Commuter, casual bikes on the move

Not everyone is competing on two wheels; Indianapolis has added quite a few exciting opportunities for casual and recreation riders, too. Extensive work has been done this year to reach 64 miles of cycling lanes in the city; by 2015, Rebuildindy funds will enable the city to add 75 more miles of trails and bike lanes. Although the additional lanes have confused some drivers, overall, the city is beginning to slow down and realize that cyclists own the streets just as much as cars do.

After a lot of stalling and even more headaches, the Cultural Trail through Fountain Square is nearly completed; it's just begging Indianapolis patrons to bundle up and visit their favorite shops and restaurants over the holidays.

The Indy Parks board recently voted to allow cyclists and pedestrians to expand the hours of usage for the Monon Trail. Now the trail is open and patrolled from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Already, those who have been monitoring the trail have found that quite a few people use the trail during the early morning hours and to commute to and from work. The bike advocacy group INDYCOG presented the board with 1,100 petitions in order to extend the hours; they're still working with the city in an effort to have the trail opened and patrolled 24 hours, and eventually for lighting on the trail.

According to their website, INDYCOG started as a blog in early 2009; in 2010, they expanded to working as a bicycle education and advocacy group. They now have well over 100 members and have sponsored a number of events, from the Mass Ave. Criterium to the 2 Wheels 1 City celebration, which raised nearly $1,000 for Free Wheelin' Community Bikes. In November, they also received recognition as a non-profit organization.

click to enlarge BGI and CIBA donated five new mountain bikes to IMPD as part of the opening of the Indy Bike Hub YMCA.
  • BGI and CIBA donated five new mountain bikes to IMPD as part of the opening of the Indy Bike Hub YMCA.

Even the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department is hitting the streets on two wheels: The Central Indiana Bicycling Association Foundation and the Bicycle Garage Indy donated five new mountain bikes in conjunction with the opening of the Indy Bike Hub YMCA. Not only does this promote a healthy environment, bikes actually enable police officers to better patrol certain areas.

Bike hubs, bike ports

The grand opening of the Indy Bike Hub came right at the middle of September, complete with a ribbon cutting by Mayor Greg Ballard and all kinds of incentives to join. The Hub has already added several new exercise classes and courses to promote safety. The Bike Hub hopes to provide a place for people to stay fit year-round.

According to Karin Ogden, executive director of the downtown YMCA (Athenaeum and Bike Hub), the City Market "continues to evolve into a thriving local community." Ogden said that people can look forward to more organized rides from the Hub from week to week, and that the City Market, Bicycle Garage Indy, Bicycle Indiana, and IndyCog have, "lots of great synergy."

One thing that Ogden said people might not realize is that the Bike Hub is much like the other YMCA facilities. "I tell people to imagine their favorite neighborhood Y, with a bike twist." In addition to the bike shop and storage, the Hub offers all kinds of cardiovascular and strength equipment, and several fitness classes — perfect for the winter months.

Like the Bike Hub YMCA, The National Institute of Fitness and Sport (NIFS), in partnership with the White River State Park, offers cyclist access to its BikePort. People can park their bikes with access to the IndyGo Red Line to Downtown Indy. NIFS also offers bicycle commuter memberships.

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