Starting next spring, the South Shore line will allow passengers to bring bicycles on the train on the weekends. This is much sooner than the 2021 date that was previously indicated for a change in the rail’s bike policy.
Did you even know this was an issue? Until this news broke, I hadn’t even considered the idea of taking bikes on the train, between the distance anyone very far South of the Expressway has to travel to get there, and the stations’ design not being very friendly to bikes, or even anyone averse to stair-climbing. But if you’re not like me and ever wanted to travel with your two-wheeler, you will soon be able to do so on the weekends.
But why stop there? Could biking catch on as a major mode of transportation in the Region? It would certainly have benefits for residents and the environment, but how good a fit could it be?
At first glance, Northwest Indiana might not look like a bike-friendly region, as the suburban sprawl seems designed solely with cars in mind. Look closer, however, and you’ll find a network of bike routes and trails that navigate the interconnected towns.
A bike-sharing program, an idea that’s caught on and been quite successful in big cities, could pepper those routes to encourage people to use them instead of driving everywhere. Or, on a smaller scale, towns can have their own sharing service for residents to travel short distances around the area, and maybe add some bike lanes where sidewalks won’t suffice, as well.
The main obstacle to turning the Region into a biking-friendly area isn’t feasibility or planning, but the cultural mentality of always driving everywhere. It’s unlikely biking will ever overtake driving completely, considering the sheer extent of said sprawl and other factors which make cars necessary. However, it’s very possible that, with the right promotion, people might consider biking over shorter distances around town instead of driving. A small change in habit on a wide scale could cut down on carbon emissions substantially, and not only will it save residents money they’d spend on gas, but it would also inject some much-needed exercise into their regular routines.