The Indy Bike Hub YMCA is gearing up for its first full riding season. Organizers are planning events to keep the buzz building about cycling in Indianapolis.
"With the milder temperatures of winter, the riding season for die-hards probably never ended. For the rest of us, the riding season is fast approaching and the Indy Bike Hub YMCA is at the center of it," said Karin Ogden, executive director of the Indy Bike Hub YMCA.
Beginning in April, the YMCA and Bicycle Garage Indy, which has a sales and full-service shop in the hub, will kick off a monthly networking series designed to encourage more people to commute by bicycle. It will educate people and emphasize how easy it is to ride instead of drive. On May 18, you can participate in Mayor Greg Ballad's Ride to Work Day, being organized by INDYCOG. The Central Indiana Bicycling Association will also feature rides that leave from the hub.
To prepare for the influx of riders, Bicycle Garage Indy is extending its hours at the hub to include weekends. "Providing a central location for bicycle commuters to park their bicycles and be able to meet and connect with each other will be a catalyst for Indianapolis to be regarded as a progressive community that will attract employers and employees," said Randy Clark, president and founder of Bicycle Garage Indy. "We look forward to serving bicyclists who work, live and visit downtown Indianapolis."
Indy Bike Hub YMCA (Slideshow)
Bicyle Garage Indy and the YMCA teamed up to create a bike shop and gym combo, complete with bike storage and showers for commuters.
Biking in Indiana
The Indy Bike Hub YMCA, which opened Sept. 7 of last year, is just one piece of Ballard's plan to make Indianapolis a bike-friendly city. Currently, the city has 64 miles of bike lanes, a drastic change from just a few years ago when there were not any lanes. The mayor's plan is to create more than 200 miles of bike lanes across the city. This will make Indianapolis competitive with the top-ranked cities in bike-lane availability.
Last year, Bicycling magazine ranked Indianapolis 45th among the 50 most bicycle-friendly cities in the United States. The magazine considered a host of factors in the rankings, including bike lanes, off-street paths, other bicycling amenities and the dynamics of the local biking community. Top-ranked Minneapolis has 46 miles of on-street bike lanes, while Portland, Ore., — with more than 200 miles — was second. Boulder, Colo.; Seattle; and Eugene, Ore.; rounded out the top five.
Ballard, who talks passionately about bicycling efforts, says raising Indianapolis' profile in such circles will help attract talented people.
"The new generation of professionals today are looking for livable cities that are vibrant and connected," Ballard said. "Bikes lanes add that aspect to Indianapolis and give them transportation alternatives. The biking community has grown among professionals, and including that option gives Indianapolis an advantage when it comes to selecting a city to start your career."
The planned construction
Planned construction as part of Ballard's citywide connectivity initiative will connect existing infrastructure, neighborhoods, commercial centers and destination points citywide. It will expand Indianapolis' current greenways and bikeways network by nearly two-thirds— achieving a total of 200 miles by 2015. The project will be supported by $20 million in RebuildIndy funds.
The next big project will take place on West 71st Street. The city will add a multiuse path on 71st Street from just west of Georgetown Road to Spring Mill Road. From there it will head north on Spring Mill Road to 75th Street, where it will then head east on 75th Street to the Monon Trail.
The Lafayette Road bike lanes project will be finished in the spring, with only bike symbols, signs and green painted lane markings remaining to be completed. The 0.8-mile-long 71st Street Connector Trail was opened in October. It joins Eagle Creek Park and its extensive trail system to the trail network on nearby Intech Park's 200-acre grounds. The Connector Trail allows pedestrians and cyclists to safely enter Eagle Creek Park from 71st Street and provides access to the nearly completed 13 miles of new bike lanes along Lafayette Road and White River Parkway, linking New York Street downtown to the north county line.
Federal stimulus grants provided 85 percent of the funding for the 71st Street Connector Trail, with the city spending roughly one dollar for every six dollars of grant funding applied. The trail incorporates sustainable design elements, including five boardwalks built above wetlands, and features benches constructed from Indiana limestone. The 71st Street entrance to Eagle Creek Park allows access to the new trail.
"Indianapolis has seen an unprecedented increase in bike facilities over the last four to five years.The Bike Hub is only a part of that," said Jamison Hutchins, planning manager of the city's office of sustainability. "We have gone from zero to 65 when it comes to on-street bike lanes. The Cultural Trail, a world-class cycle track, is almost complete, which connects all the cultural districts and many greenways. Our bike community, including CIBA, INDYCOG and HMBA (Hoosier Mountain Bike Association), has stepped up to take advantage of the momentum. People are going to be surprised how many people take the streets on two wheels."
Cycling enthusiasts see the addition of the Indy Bike Hub YMCA as an extension of advocacy efforts to help create a bicycle-friendly Indianapolis.
"I think it's good for the city," said Noah Dennis, a YMCA member and bike commuter. "I've been seeing more and more bikes out, more people commuting, more people making use of the trails and pathways. People feel safer on their bikes now that there is a defined space for cyclists to work with the traffic flow. People are recognizing this is a nice means of transportation and a good workout."
The addition of the Indy Bike Hub YMCA and the bike lanes have allowed Dennis to commute daily on his bike. "I have a safe place to park it and I no longer have to worry about paying for expensive downtown parking," he said.
It's not just parking concerns that are prompting people to jump on their bikes. According to the National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior, which was sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics,the call for bike facilities is building from the bottom up. People are driving less and looking for more transportation choices. Between May and September 2008, with gas at $4 a gallon, Americans drove 57.8 billion fewer miles than during the same months in 2007. When average gas prices were under $2 in March 2009, American were still driving less. Americans drove more than a billion fewer miles in March 2009 than during that month in 2008 when the gas price was $3.
More than a bike hub
Winter hasn't kept people from enjoying all the Indy Bike Hub YMCA has to offer. It is a full-facility YMCA that features a wellness center with cardio machines, strength machines, free-weight machines, free towel service, locker rooms and free WiFi.
Karen Doe, Indy Bike Hub YMCA wellness director, says the indoor group-cycling classes have been a huge success with 155 participants in February alone. Members are also taking advantage of the cardio equipment, strength and free-weight equipment as well as the other group exercises classes the facility offers.
Park your bike
Anyone can park their bikes at the Indy Bike Hub YMCA. Guests can park for $1 an hour or $5 a day. If you need more than a place to store your bike, the facility offers a bike-commuter membership. You can store your bike and use the facility showers for $39 a month. YMCA members can park their bikes for free.
Heather Chastain is the Electronic Media Coordinator for the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis.