BY KELSEY O’CONNOR
Bicycle commuting is being embraced in Bloomington to a far greater extent than the country as a whole. In 2012, 3.9 percent of all local commuters biked to work, more than six times the national average.
Still, in a city famous for the Little 500 and Breaking Away, biking can be a dangerous and frustrating way to travel as many motorists and bikers lack an understanding of traffic laws, causing confusion and hostility.
The City of Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission has been working to create a safer environment for bike commuters and motorized vehicle operators alike. The commission launched the Civil Streets initiative in fall 2013 with the ongoing goal of reducing crashes, unsafe behaviors, and frustration on the road.
“An outreach campaign was necessary,” says Vince Caristo, the city’s bicycle and pedestrian coordinator. “It seemed like a lot of people, particularly with bicycles, might not understand they have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles.”
This is the first year the commission is operating with a budget. It is now able to launch a grant program that provides funds to local individuals and groups trying to increase bicycling or walking. The commission also plans to update the map of bike paths in the city. Bloomington now has 70 miles of bike paths and lanes — a 100 percent increase since 2010.
Other recent efforts by the city include buffered bike lanes, East 3rd Street bus islands that eliminate bus traffic in bike lanes, and green-box intersections that allow cyclists to stop in front of vehicles in marked areas, increasing their visibility and reducing the danger of vehicles making right turns in front of cyclists.
The city’s goal is to receive The League of American Bicyclists’ Platinum award, says Caristo. Bloomington previously received a silver designation and will reapply for the more prestigious status this July. Caristo says that citizens can do their part to make the streets safer. “Simple common rules of courtesy can be the solution,” he says.
For more information on the rules of the road and the Civil Streets initiative, click here.