Can Indy rock? Exploring Indianapolis, the Midwest’s next bike mecca

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Eric McAfee and Kevin Kastner on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

[This piece also appeared in Checkerboard City, John’s weekly transportation column in Newcity magazine, which hits the streets in print on Thursdays.]

If I had to sum up Indianapolis in one word, it would be “Underrated.” With a population of 829,718, the Hoosier State capital is the second-largest Midwest city (although it’s only the ninth largest metro area in the region.) Despite its size it’s known as “Naptown” and “India-No-Place” due to its reputation as a bland, suburban-style metropolis with few attractions besides the Colts, the Pacers and the Indy 500. I’m told that in the 1980s you couldn’t even buy a sandwich downtown after 6pm and the massive streets, lined with dozens of garages and oceans of parking lots, were so deserted you could safely walk down the middle of them.

But two weekends ago when I took Megbus there to meet up with my buddy Jake, in town for a conference, I discovered a surprisingly hip city with some fascinating architectural features and plenty of fun stuff to do. And while there’s little public transportation to speak of, and the city’s dominant image is a racecar, I was shocked to find a level of bike-friendliness that gives Chicago a run for its money.

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