South Shore Line embarks on bike-friendly pilot program

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) announced the details of its new test initiative to provide transportation service that will allow bicyclists to bring their bicycle onto the South Shore train beginning April 2.

The program, appropriately titled “Bikes on Weekend Trains,” intends to increase ridership and provide bicyclists the opportunity to explore areas along the South Shore route by bike.

Westbound riders will be able to explore Chicago hotspots, routes and trails in a new way on two wheels. For those going eastbound, there will be an opportunity to explore the lakeshore in Indiana or other popular destinations like the University of Notre Dame on bicycle.

According to NICTD Spokesperson John Parsons, the “Bikes on Weekend Trains” program will not only allow people to easily travel to and around Chicago, but it will seamlessly connect the big city to northwest Indiana.

“We are hoping that opening our weekend service to bicycles will open up northwest Indiana to Chicago. Northern Indiana has numerous bike trails throughout our four-county service, bringing the Dunes, Lake Michigan and Hoosier hospitality within reach of everyone,” Parsons said.

The pilot program comes at a time when urban bicycle ridership is at an all-time high. Because more and more cities are developing bike-friendly initiatives like bicycle lanes and racks, NICTD has followed suit by purchasing 134 bike racks and installing them on seven cars.

These bike-equipped cars will be incorporated into 14 out of 18 weekend trains, providing capacity for 14 to 40 bikes per train. The racks will safely secure bikes on one side of the aisle while allowing passengers to sit across the aisle close to their bicycle in view. The bike racks are provided free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis.

While this program is intended to increase ridership, it will not take away seats from traditional riders as extra cars are being added to accommodate the bicycles.

The South Shore Line will launch the program on Saturday, April 2 and it will run on weekends and railroad holidays through October 30, 2016. There will be weekends during special events in Chicago when the bike rack-equipped cars will not be accessible. Furthermore, not every station or train is able to accommodate the bicycle program; high-level platforms are required so passengers can walk onto the train with their bike through the car’s middle doors without having to climb steps to the train.

That means that bicycle service will be restricted to South Bend, Dune Park, East Chicago, Hammond, Hegewisch and stations in Chicago.

For more information about the “Bikes on Weekend Trains” pilot program including departure times for bike trains, rules, blackout dates, and bike trails in northern Indiana and Chicago, visit the South Shore website at www.nictd.com.

The South Shore Line is an electrically powered rail line system that was built in the early 1900s by the  predecessors of the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad. It is now operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) who assumed operation in 1989.

The trains run between Millennium Station in downtown Chicago and the South Bend International Airport in South Bend, Indiana, servicing 19 stations along the route.

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