Biking has been mainly promoted in the past ten years as a healthy transportation alternative in major American metropolitan cities. In smaller communities though, biking remains mainly recreational. In addition to the health benefits of urban biking, it also provides the opportunity to interact with nature and wildlife along trails.
In 2012, Muncie, Indiana developed a complete street plan for its downtown, but the main biking infrastructure of the city remains the Cardinal Greenways. Cardinal Greenways is a trail network that stretches throughout the city on the abandoned railroad line and along the White River banks.
This trail network was created in 1993 and started with a rail-to-trail program when Cardinal Greenways, a private non-profit organization, acquired sixty miles of abdicated railroad from CSX Transportation. The non-profit is housed in Wysor Street Depot, a historic architectural structure built in 1901 that served as a train station along the Cincinnati, Richmond, and Muncie Railroad until the passenger rail service stopped in 1933. The trail is part of the American Discovery Trail, and is to this day the longest rail-trail in Indiana. It spans sixty-two miles from Sweetser through Marion and Muncie to Richmond in East Central Indiana, and attracts 250,000 users each year.
Cardinal Greenways organizes various cycling events which bring avid cyclists from the Muncie community and visitors alike together. The organization also runs a bike loan program, funded through private donors and a county grant. The program makes cruiser bikes available to trail users free of charge.
Muncie is the home of an enthusiastic biking community. The city buses feature bike racks to help bikers transport their bikes within the city. There are also several cycling groups, such as Tour of Muncie. The group gathers bikers who promote cycling within the Muncie community and host several fun cycling events throughout the year that have attracted hundreds of participants.
The greenways have also proved their ability to generate economic benefits. In Muncie, homes around the trail have seen their property values increase by up to nine percent and many businesses have opened alongside the greenways. The trail also attracts tourists and visitors who enjoy biking through the agricultural and stretched landscape of Central Indiana.
Do you know of any successful trails in proximity to your community that bring people together and spur activity and development?
Credits: Images by Sarah Essbai and Tour of Muncie. Data linked to sources.