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Transportation innovation in South Bend, Indiana
South Bend has a rich history of hosting transportation innovation, starting with the Studebaker brothers first putting the city on the map as the home to wagon building in the mid-18th century. After their transition to building among the nation’s first electric powered vehicles, Studebaker then became a name synonymous with the automobile industry by employing thousands over many decades — leaving a legacy that lasts to this day.
With its continued commitment to making advances in cycling infrastructure, policy and culture resulting is greater community connectivity and an enhanced range of affordable transportation options, South Bend has emerged as the bicycling leader in the Northern Indiana Region and is proud to have its community progress recognized by the League of American Bicyclists as a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community.
In recent years, these advances have raised our profile leading to multiple instances of national recognition including:
· 2016 – Mayor’s Challenge Award Winner – US Department of Transportation
· 2016 – Third Ranked Complete Streets Policy by Smart Growth America/National Complete Streets Coalition
In 2017, the National Complete Streets Coalition, a program of Smart Growth America, named South Bend as a Safe Streets Academy Winner, one of 3 nationwide winners of a competitive new program intended to help cities make tangible progress toward building safer streets for all of their residents by constructing temporary neighborhood traffic calming measures/devices in neighborhood.
Protecting Cyclists through Smart Streets
In 2013, South Bend launched the Smart Streets initiative to create safer, more efficient transportation by creating new two-way traffic patterns that better accommodate motorists, transit riders, cyclists and pedestrians. The total Smart Streets investment, including downtown South Bend and other major corridors has exceeded 25 million dollars.
Through completion of the signature “smart streets” project, last year saw the completion of the region’s first sidewalk level protected bike lanes, raised cycletracks, and bicycle signals as part as part of a whole scale change to downtown’s major one way pairing (Main Street and MLK Drive). These protected facilities include a buffering between adjacent sidewalk and street furniture zone through use of decorative pavers and protected intersections. Conflict zone pavement treatments at intersections and major driveway crossings. The cycle track is equipped with bike signals and is an early phase is part of a larger plan to add additional new and upgraded segments in the Riverwalk system. With the addition of these awesome facilities, South Bend is now equipped with marked bike routes for 95% of streets within the downtown grid making them safer, more comfortable, and better connected for all cyclists.
Embracing a New Bike Share Model
In July 2017, South Bend launched its first bikeshare by partnering with LimeBike (now known as Lime), a dockless bike share provider, making it just the third community in the US to offer dockless bike share service and the largest community at that time. LimeBike uses green-colored bicycles equipped with GPS units and 3G connectivity. The bicycles also feature a front basket, phone holder and headlight/taillights.
As of June 2018, there are over 800 bikes and more than 250,000 rides by 40,000 riders, (exceeding 20,000 in weekly ridership at times) making South Bend the largest bike share in terms of both bikes and rides within the state of Indiana and amongst the very largest in the Midwest. LimeBike also has operations at University Notre Dame, Indiana University at South Bend and other colleges/universities. LimeBike plans to add operations to nearby communities. They have a 6-person staff currently working in South Bend.
Prior to having a bike share service, South Bend was essentially devoid of any public bikes including local bike rental. LimeBike usage has — not surprisingly — tapped into the market of users wanting to ride recreationally, whether it the Riverwalk trail system and parks or the network of new downtown protected facilities but also more interestingly has quickly become adapted using bikeshare as necessity transportation, relying on the service for transportation to places of employment, service agencies and retail/commercial centers. This pattern of use has greatly aided the city’s priority to improve the freedom for individual mobility, particularly for those without motor vehicles.
Moving forward, South Bend’s presence as a Bicycle Friendly Community facilitates a momentum that when buoyed by local partnerships, will generate growth in our bicycle culture and innovation in our route design making cycling more comfortable and attainable for an ever-increasing number of our residents.