Next to walking and hiking, cycling is the most popular outdoor activity in the United States. As more Americans take to their bikes and ride, municipalities are developing innovative bike paths and off-road trails and implementing bike share programs in order to promote the benefits of two-wheeled transportation.
“Bike infrastructure has really grown by leaps and bounds,” said Jason Stouder, vicepresident of Progressive Bike Ramps in Joplin, Mo.
Progressive Bike Ramps is a ramp design and manufacturing company born from the joining of Progressive Trail Design and American Ramp Company. Though the company specializes in off-road ramp products, Stouder said the presence of municipal bike paths helps his side of the industry as well. Progressive’s park and trail features now dot public greenways with skills courses that develop balance, coordination, core strength and overall confidence for riders of all ages.
Cities choosing to embrace cyclists and bring bike paths into the community see a number of economic, physical and environmental benefits from doing so. According to a study conducted by the National Parks and Recreation Association, the use of trails, bicycle paths, pedestrian paths and greenways stimulate local economies through job creation, commercial business development, and increased real estate values while promoting environmental sustainability.
With more than 92 miles of on-street bikeways and 85 miles of off-road paths, Minneapolis, Minn., has been named one of the top five bicycling communities in the nation by the U.S. Census Bureau. Simon Blenski, with the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Section staff, said the success of the program has been a combination of the investment in bicycle infrastructure, an existing trail system and the desire to give residents safe, comfortable places to ride.
“We have a great trail system and historical park system that has been around for 100 years,” Blenski said. “A lot of our newer trails have been constructed to offer the same benefits as our older system, but with improved access.”
He said cities looking to promote cycling throughout the community could do so by creating separate bike lanes on city streets, helping businesses install bike racks outside of their establishments, create alternative biking routes on bike boulevards.
A bike boulevard is a low-speed, low traffic street that has been optimized for bicycle traffic. Blenski said these bikeway design elements are intended to appeal to casual, risk-averse, inexperienced and younger bicyclists who may not be comfortable riding on busier streets.
“We also have a great bike share program,” he added.
Bike sharing is quickly topping the list of municipal bike trends and is one of the more progressive innovations cities are looking at in order to expand the use of cycles on city streets. With the completion of its eight-mile, $63 million cultural trail, the city of Indianapolis is hoping to add a 300-bike, 24-rental-station bike share program to the community by 2014.
“The bike share program is a great new feature for Indianapolis because it will make it easier for people to get around the city,” Lori Miser, director of the department of public works said. “The cultural trail connects all of our downtown cultural districts and serves as a hub, if you will, for the city’s bicycle network. So being able to offer bike share along the cultural trail will make it easy and convenient to explore not only downtown, but other neighborhoods around the city as well.”
Designed by Rundell Ernstberger Associates LLC, and built during a six-year period, the Indianapolis Culture Trail provides a new prototype for urban transportation corridors that integrates green infrastructure, clean transportation, community revitalization, economic development, and sustainable design.
“(The ICT is) a bold, transformative project featuring a world-class bike and pedestrian path that connects neighborhoods, cultural districts and entertainment amenities,” said Indianapolis Chamber president and CEO Scott Miller.
“Bike path infrastructure and innovative design really has a big impact on the local economy. Bike paths lead to more businesses, which leads to more jobs and just a better place to live,” Stouder said.