Bicycling in Indiana, PA
I mostly gave up the car two years ago and started riding into work and on errands around town. I rode ~2000 miles in the ‘burgh and got totally used to how things work in our city.
Last fall I completely gave up the corporate world/yuppie life and quit my job to go back to school. I’m currently [finally!] finishing my undergrad at IUP in order to start on a Ph.D. in Biology in Fall 2012.
Illnesses and injuries initially conspired to limit my riding to the .7 mi trip to campus, but in the last several weeks I’ve gotten back in the saddle. It’s a totally different world from Pittsburgh, and I’ve noticed a few things:
There are no bike racks. Anywhere. There is not a single business anywhere in town with a rack out front. My only options are signposts and parking meters. I got so used to being able to lock up in Pittsburgh that it almost feels like I’ve traveled back in time…
No one rides in bad weather here. Most cyclists in Indiana are either local roadies or college students, and the students seem to all leave their bikes at home until spring. I don’t think I saw more than one or two other bikes a day locked up on campus until the end of April.
Apparently, no one steals bikes here. When the weather finally turned, bikes started showing up on the few racks on campus. I still use my standard U-lock, and as far as I can tell, I’m the only one. Most of the bikes on campus are beaters, but even high-end bikes get locked with only a simple, thin cable-lock (and often through just the front wheel!)
Not many people bike here. It’s summer now, with few classes, but there are still at least 200 students and 20 or so professors in the science building each day…and there were three bikes locked up outside today (including mine). During finals week, when the library was packed with students, there were still always empty slots on the ten-bike rack outside the door. Once or twice a week I see roadies ride past my house, and often I see students (sans helmet!) riding on the sidewalks immediately next to campus, but for the most part it’s just cars on the road.
Drivers are excruciatingly courteous. It’s rare that I get passed on my short trip into campus (despite it being on roads much wider than similar roads in the ‘burgh). I’ve only logged about 300 miles since December, but I haven’t yet encountered a single hostile driver. Even uphill, cars often tool along behind me for a quarter mile or more before finally passing. It sounds nice, but being used to city riding, I find it *unnerving*. I’d much rather have a car pass me with a foot or two of clearance than hang behind me for what feels like an eternity. It is nice, though, on the long rides on farm roads when they move completely into the other lane to pass…
It’s definitely “easier”’ to ride out here. The drivers are much, much better, the pavement is less potholed, and the hills are less steep. It’s not as much fun, though, and not nearly as exciting. I miss riding in traffic and mixing it up with cars, acting as just another vehicle on the road; watching for doors, obstacles, and inattentive drivers, and being ready to react to anything in an instant. I miss the steep climbs, and I miss bombing down the hills only to slam on the brakes for the stoplight at the bottom. I miss the excitement. It’s nice riding in Indiana, but it’s *boring*, and the infrastructure simply sucks; I really miss riding in the ‘burgh!
For long rides, though, it’s heaven. The countryside is full of low-traffic, smooth, rolling, winding country roads as far as the eye can see…and most of the farm dogs are chained (and the ones that aren’t are fairly easy to outrun). It’s nice to be able to ride from my house to farmland in less than a mile…and then ride for hours without any hassle from cars and just enjoy the scenery…
Anyway, these are just my thoughts on bicycling in a new place…thought some might be interested in reading them.
If anyone happens to be heading out this way this summer, bring your bike and send me a message…I’ve got a ton of great country rides I’d love to share.
You poor delusional Dorothy. Illness and injury still plague you. Please get back on your meds and get well soon. -Auntie Em.
Aside from the lack of adequate bike parking, it sounds like you’re having too much fun. Congrats on stumbling upon serenity.
I’d like to believe that @mattre’s experiences has to do with the development in and around Indiana, PA – encouraging the “live and let live” attitude on the roadways. I’ve experienced the same courtesy riding through boroughs and villages in the rural parts of Pennsylvania. Limited hustle and bustle when suburban development doesn’t have you spread so thin.
Welcome to where I grew up and rode all over the place! In fact, we used to do training laps around the Indiana Mall once a week after closing. Of course, that was a while ago…
IUP has an actual cycling team, but you’ll get the local riding scene at Indiana Schwinn and Fitness Center on 5th Street just a block off of Philadelphia St. Bob is a great guy and knows all the locals.
White’s woods is also great if you want to check out some single track. I love riding around there when I go home. Enjoy!
I grew up in a little town called Clymer, just outside of Indiana. Cycling there is generally horrible. I’ve experienced more a-hole drivers per capita there than in Pittsburgh. To me, people around there seem to have more of a “get off the road” type attitdue toward bikes. Then again, these people drive enormous, modified pickup trucks with big stickers that say Redneck in the back window, and are far from college students or professors.
On the White’s Woods singletrack note, if you’re into mountain biking Yellowcreek state park has gotten some nice singletrack in the past few years.
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