The League of American Bicyclists ranks the city as a ‘silver-level’ Bicycle Friendly Community and the IUB campus as a ‘bronze-level’ Bicycle Friendly University. With a relatively mild climate, biking in Bloomington is possible year round. See below for tips on “How You Can Bike In Any Season”. You can also use Google maps to select safe bike routes—when asking for directions, just select the bike button in the left sidebar.
Purchasing New and Used Bikes
The cost of owning a bicycle doesn’t have to deter you from joining the cycling community in Bloomington. While Bloomington does have multiple bicycle stores where you can purchase bikes, there are many other options that will allow you to purchase or build a bike for a low price, or even for free.
Free or Low Cost Options
- Bloomington Community Bicycle Project: Earn-A-Bike--you’ll be able to build or fix the bike up yourself after volunteering three hours of your time.
- IU Bike Auction: Get a great deal on a bike that was abandoned or impounded by IU Parking Operations. Sales are usually held in September and May.
- OnCourse-IU Classifieds: There are almost always bikes listed for sale, especially in April or May when many students sell bikes before moving out of town. Frequently you can barter with the seller to get a better deal.
- Craigslist: Biking is popular in Bloomington and there are always bikes for sale on Craigslist. If you’re searching for a bike, check weekly for new listings.
- Indiana Daily Student- Classifieds: Sometimes you can find bikes for sale in the IDS, usually at the beginning or end of the school year.
Local Bicycle Stores in Bloomington
- If you are looking to purchase a brand new or lightly used bicycle, visit one of Bloomington’s bicycle shops. At any of these stores you’ll also be able to find other cycling gear that you may need, including assorted clothing, bike parts, tires, commuting bags, etc… These shops also provide services such as fixing flat tires, bike tune-ups, and more.
Bike Safety and Security
- Be Alert. As a cyclist you are more exposed than when you are driving a vehicle. Pay close attention to the traffic around you. Just because you can see a car that is nearby doesn’t mean the car’s driver can see you.
- Always wear a helmet, obey all traffic laws, and have proper lighting on your bike. Watch out for road hazards (sewer grates, sand or road debris, broken glass, etc…), pedestrians, and people opening car doors.
- Obey Traffic Laws. Cyclists must follow the same traffic laws as other vehicles. Stop at all stop signs and red lights, yield to pedestrians and signal when turning. Do not ride the wrong way on one-way streets- it’s illegal!
- Learn and Use the Proper Hand Turn Signals. Watch this two minute tutorial to learn how to properly signal turns while on a bike.
- Use Lights at Night. If you don’t have adequate lighting on your bike, riding at night is dangerous both for you and for other vehicles. Place lights and/or blinkers on both the front and back of your bike, and wear light-colored clothing to improve safety. Watch this short tutorial to learn more about riding safely at night.
- Commute via Bike-Friendly Routes. Try to avoid roads that are heavy traffic and/or don’t have bike lanes. Use this map of Bloomington’s bike lanes to help plan your next cycling trip across town.
- Lock Up Your Bike. Avoid theft by locking up your bike. Only lock your bike to designated bicycle parking racks so you don’t cause damage to trees or private property.
- Register Your Bike. Register your bike with Campus Parking Operations to avoid having your bicycle impounded or ticketed while on campus. Registration costs $10 and the money raised is used to improve the biking infrastructure across campus.
Many Bloomington residents ride their bikes year-round. You can too, regardless of the season, by taking the time to plan ahead. Be sure to check the weather, make sure your bike lights are fully functional, and that your bike is in good working order before leaving your home for the day. Here are some tips for riding at various types of day and in various weather conditions:
Riding in the Evening and at Night
- Use lights. Overcast days and later sunrise/ early nightfall means you may be riding in the dark either on your way to class or work, or on your way home. You will need proper lighting on the front and back of your bike; lights that have blinkers are best for visibility.
- Be visible. Wear reflective gear- it is harder for other road users to see cyclists in the dark, so wear reflective clothing or bands on your wrists and ankles. Be especially cautious when riding in the rain.
- Slow down.
- Watch out for debris. After winter there can be more sand and salt on the roads, especially road edges and in the bike lanes, so be careful not to brake too quickly.
Riding in Warm Weather
- Wear lightweight clothing. Average temperatures in the summer are in the mid 80s, so lightweight clothing and fabrics that wick away sweat are most comfortable when commuting on your bike.
- Bring extra clothes, or a small towel. Heat and humidity means you’re inevitably going to sweat- there’s no way around it. Some people find it convenient to bring a change of clothes with them or a small towel so they can clean up once they’ve reached their destination.
- Hydrate properly. Heat and humidity can take a toll on your body- always bring adequate water with you when biking to help prevent heat exhaustion.
- Wear sunscreen. Be sure to protect your face and skin with a good sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays to prevent getting burned in the summer sun. Wear sunglasses. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses when riding around town. You may need to adjust your helmet in order for them to fit properly.
Riding in Cold Weather
- Watch this short video on cycling in the winter.
- Dress in layers. Mornings and evenings may be much cooler than daytime temperatures, so layers are important for staying comfortable while riding. Start with a thermal layer that traps heat close to your body, and finish with some kind of windbreaker to fight wind chill (and also stay dry if it rains!)
- Wear a hat. Always wear your helmet in the winter, but in addition, your ears may need extra protection. Skull caps or helmet liners that fit underneath your helmet are great options, as are balaclavas for full-face coverage on the coldest of days.
- Wear a scarf. Scarves will keep your neck warm, and can also be pulled up over the mouth and face to help cut the wind.Protect your hands.
- Wear gloves or mittens to prevent frostbite and make your ride comfortable. For the coldest of days, it is nice to have an additional, separate inner glove liner (silk glove liners are best, but cotton ones work, too) to break the wind.
- Wear overpants. Running tights or even rain pants can make a ride on a chilly day very comfortable, and will also help you keep your clothes clean if the roads are sloppy.
Riding in Rain, Sleet or Snow
- Plan ahead. Check the radar before riding to see when rain will be lighter, and avoid riding during lightning or heavy downpours, for safety reasons. Watch this short video for tips on biking in the rain.
- Dress appropriately. Wear rain pants over your clothing, overshoes or rain boots, and a raincoat or poncho.
- Spare clothing. Keep a clean set of clothes (especially socks) at work if you can in the event that you do get wet while on your commute.
- Keep your bags dry. Messenger bags made of waterproof materials are most convenient, but tarps and ponchos that can cover your bags are other good options as well. In a pinch, a garbage bag will work too!
- Keep your seat dry. Bring a plastic bag or shower cap with you to put over your bike seat to keep it dry when it rains. Install fenders. Fenders will help keep rain and mud from splashing on you as you ride.
Tips for Commuting to Work via Bicycle
Riding your bike to and from work is a great addition to your day, providing you with built-in exercise and a chance to be outdoors on a regular basis. Check out the tips below on how to improve your bicycle commuting experience.
Map your route. If you’ve never biked to work before, map out your route before hopping on your bike. The route you normally take to work may not be the best route for you when you’re commuting on your bike. Take into consideration distance, traffic, and terrain when mapping out your bike route.
Test ride your route. If you’re a first time bicycle work-commuter, take a test ride on a weekend so you can know exactly how long it takes you to cycle there.
Be safe. Basic cycling safety always applies- wear a helmet and outfit your bike with front and back lights, and use proper hand signals when riding.
Plan ahead. Always check the weather before leaving for work so you won’t be caught by surprise.
Spare clothing. Consider keeping a fresh set of clothes at your workplace so that you can change when you get there, if you’d like. Spare socks are especially handy to have in the event that your feet get wet.
Prevent theft. Lock up your bike at designated bicycle parking racks. If your workplace doesn’t have bike racks, encourage your employer to get them installed; in the mean time, get permission to lock your bike to a tree or fence.
Talk to your employer. Commuting to work via bicycle is becoming increasingly popular and speaking with your employer about biking to work may help improve your bicycle commuting experience. The Bicycle Commuter Act of 2008 also provides a tax benefit for commuters and their employers, meaning savings for both parties. Talk to your employer about installing adequate bike parking, as well as showers and/or changing rooms for cyclist commuters.
Talk to regular bike commuters. They can provide suggestions on the best routes to take, along with favorable clothing options that are suitable for work or easy to change out of.
Be an advocate. Encourage your employer to incentivize bicycle commuting among their employees, either through company incentives or through the IRS Bicycle Commuter Benefits.
For more commuter tips, League of American Bicyclists provides more information on the necessary gear, clothing and bike security tips here.
Also, Commuter Connect is a great service that provides carpool, bus, vanpool, bike or walk resources.
Tips for Grocery Shopping via Bike
- Shop at the nearest grocery.Find the stores near you, and look for routes that get less traffic to make your grocery shopping commute less stressful.
- Bring your own bags. Plan on carrying your food home in an empty backpack or in messenger bags that you can attach to your bike. Alternatively, install a basket or wagon on the back of your bike that can be used for transporting groceries and other items.
- Buy less, more frequently. If you have a long commute to and from the grocery, consider making more frequent, but smaller purchases to reduce your transportation load. This also helps to ensure that your produce stays fresh as you eat through the week.