Indiana has a reputation for not being bike-friendly, but Northwest Indiana is an exception.
Indiana was ranked 42nd by the 2013 Bicycle Friendly State survey. Northwest Indiana, though, is more closely aligned with Chicago than with the rest of the state.
"We bring in the Active Transportation Alliance to help with planning here quite a bit," said Mitch Barloga, nonmotorized transportation director for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission. "We are firmly a Chicago suburban area, whether some people want to admit it or not."
That will become even more obvious this fall, when trails will start connecting better at the state line.
It should be obvious to anyone that bike trails are good for recreation. But proponents need to do a better job of selling them as economic development.
The trails offer potential for commuters who want a healthier way to get to work than behind the wheel of a car. They also offer a potential source of customers for nearby restaurants, bike shops and other businesses.
Eric Mosak of Crown Point, who rides the trails about three times a week, noted the Monon Trail in the Carmel area has restaurants and shops nearby.
"Something like that is nice on the trail. A place to stop and eat and rest and meet people," Mosak said.
Amenities like restrooms and water stations are important, too. Crown Point is planning to add paved parking, a shelter, restroom and fountain at the Summit Street entrance to the Erie Lackawanna Trail.
Bike trail proponents should make sure more people know about these trails, and that local planners make the connection between bike trails and economic development, not just improved quality of life.