State adds new county bike routes

The road less traveled might soon bring another group of people to Jackson County — bicyclists from both near and far.

The Indiana Department of Transportation, Adventure Cycling Association, Bicycle Indiana and Hoosier Rails to Trails Council recently announced the designation of three new bicycle routes, including one that crosses through the eastern part of Jackson County.

The three new routes, U.S. Bicycle routes 50, 36 and 35, add a total of 610 miles of trail to the existing routes across the country.

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Route 35 passes north to south through Jackson County. Instead of Interstate 65, U.S. 31 and U.S. 50, the route follows county roads, city streets, state highways and off-road trails. The route allows cyclists to explore cultural and historical attractions as they ride.

“I think it’s great. Any time you can add more non-automobile traffic is wonderful,” Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman said.

Matt Nicholson, owner of B2 Bikes and Boards, a bike and skateboarding shop in Seymour, said bike traffic is often more desirable than motorized vehicle traffic.

“Typically, a cyclist travels slower and stops more often. They stop and get food, stay in town and interact with the community,” said Nicholson, who is an organizer of the Jackson County Bicycle Club.

Nicholson said cyclists are more likely to chose to stop at businesses they can’t generally experience when driving, such as mom-and-pop diners. They also might use alternative locations to stay besides hotels and motels, perhaps staying at campgrounds.

The local route joins the already approved portion of Route 35 in Michigan to extend it from Louisville to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, creating a 865-mile route. It is the only international route in the state.

The route spans a diverse range of cultural and geographical terrain, from urban sprawls to rolling southern Indiana hills.

In 2014, the Seymour Board of Public Works and Safety passed a resolution supporting a route through the city that travels along State Road 11 (North Ewing Street) and turns west on State Road 258 (Sixth Street) before hitting Walnut Street and continuing south on State Road 11 out of the city.

Luedeman said the board’s approval was all that was needed from the city for the bike path.

With the route through the city, Nicholson said there is a potential change he would like to see.

“What the board approved in 2014 is a good start, but the plan only has two local restaurants on the route,” he said. “They could move it a block or two and have more.”

Nicholson said while he thinks the route could be changed to make more local shops available, he is supportive of the national route passing through Jackson County for a couple of reasons.

“We’re a big enough place to offer choices but small enough it feels safe and comfortable,” said Nicholson.

Nicholson said there is still more that can be done to bring more cyclists to the area.

“The thing Seymour people can do is contribute,” he said. “Helping cyclists find stuff they need. Where can they camp? Where can they get food?”

Nicholson said community organizations, such as churches, can volunteer to be host sites for travelers, and homeowners interested in offering somewhere for cyclists to stay can visit, which is a community for cyclists and hosts.

The idea of a bike route is good for another reason, he said, because it is just another way to connect Jackson County to the rest of the country and the world.

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” he said. “They (cyclists) want to see what they can see. We have a beautiful country. We have open roads, and we have inviting people.”

Signs will be installed along the route to make it apparent to riders where the route travels.

As of 2014, the routes created by Adventure Cycling Association have created nearly 6,000 miles of bike routes through 12 states.