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Bike friendly: Bloomington expands bike paths


By Nona Tepper




The City of Bloomington is one of 200 communities in America to be recognized as a Silver “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists, and Bloomington is looking to extend this legacy.

The 2012 Platinum Bike Summit was Thursday, and approximately 50 local cyclists came together to discuss “bike-ability” in Bloomington.

“The Bike Summit is a one-year opportunity for the Bloomington bike community to reflect, innovate and respond to become a more bicycle-friendly community,” City of Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Vince Caristo said.

Topics ranged from “A Vehicle for Change — Bicycling and Community Empowerment” to “The Making of 2012 Bikes Month.”

The summit looked for solutions to traffic delays, discussed the increased use of nonrenewable energy resources in the community and brainstormed ways to offer alternative transportation for individuals traveling outside the exhaust fume system.

“We’re looking to turn on some light bulbs at the problem we’re dealing with here and discuss how bicycling can work as a solution,” Caristo said.

Caristo cited Bloomington’s 40-percent poverty rate and reputation as the “Most Unequal City in America” in an October Business Insider article as reasons Bloomington will be adding bike lanes, trails and side paths to its streets.

Major projects include adding bike lanes to East and West Third streets and Indiana Avenue.

Extension of the B-Line Trail and Walnut Avenue bike lanes was also mentioned.

“The B-Line trail has become one of the most significant, economic and vibrant two miles of bike path in Bloomington,” Deputy Mayor Maria Hazlin said. “Biking is something we’re good at, and it’s time to make it more than biking.”

Hazlin then mentioned increasing the bike parking spaces in Bloomington, as well as the trails in Cascades Park.

Bike outreach will also extend to community non-profits.

Ellen Spitz, nutrition and physical fitness coordinator at New Hope Family Shelter, Inc., distributes bikes to residents. New Hope is an emergency shelter in Monroe County that aims to keep homeless families together.

“I’m advocating all sustainability,” Spitz said. “Biking is a great form of physical exercise for adults and kids, and it’s great for the underprivileged to get more access and become more active in our biking community.”

As of 2007, 11 miles of bike lanes, 34 miles of signed bike routes, 11 miles of side paths and 20 miles of multi-use trials have been installed in Bloomington.

More than 150 city employees have also qualified for the Bike Commuter Reward program, an initiative that awards a $20 commuter benefit check to individuals who ride a bike to work at least 12 times per month.

Bloomington hopes to be recognized with a Platinum distinction by the League of American Bicyclists by 2016.

“We’ve succeeded in putting bicycling in the center of Bloomington’s attention,” Caristo said. “This really is a blueprint for Bloomington to become one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in America.”

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