Although Indianapolis’ flat terrain makes it a relatively easy place to bike, just 0.5 percent of residents cycle to work, according to the Census Bureau. Gov. O’Bannon recently proclaimed this week Indiana’s inaugural “Bicycle to Work Week.” Representatives from five state agencies (the governor not among them) will be backing up their boss’ words this Friday by joining regular bike commuters and cycling advocates on one of four group rides into downtown from points to the south, east and northwest.
The rides are organized by the Indiana Bicycle Coalition, whose director, Connie Szabo Schmucker, believes that Indianapolis’ current scarcity of bike commuters creates a catch-22: “If you don’t see anybody using a bike for transportation, then you don’t think about it yourself, unless you’re an avid cyclist. That’s one of the reasons why we have Indiana Bicycle to Work Week. People can check out potential commuting routes, and find out this is not the scary experience they thought it would be.”
Schmucker thinks that biking to work may look especially attractive this year, as the “Hyperfix” citywide roadwork projects make commuting by car even slower than usual. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, trips of 5 to 7 miles in urban areas may actually be quicker by bike than by car; it takes this reporter exactly the same amount of time to bike to NUVO’s office as it does to drive there.
The fact that most workplaces lack amenities for cyclists such as bike racks, showers and changing rooms may discourage potential bike commuters. Schmucker notes that the city is making modest progress in this area, with bike racks soon to be added at the City-County Building, and already in place at the Indiana Government Center.
To spur additional improvements, Schmucker stresses the need for bike commuters to make themselves seen — and heard. “If we incorporated bikes in the planning of every new road construction and road resurfacing, we could have a bike-friendly city within 10 to 15 years.”
For more information on participating and to download maps of Friday’s routes, go to www.bicycleindiana.org or call (317) 466-9701.