Cycling enthusiasts who enjoy long-distance bicycle trips and recreational riders who like exploring their community have a new resource available for their adventures.

A 360-mile bicycle route that runs north-south through Indiana, including Bartholomew County, has been added to the United States Bicycle Route (USBR) system in an effort to make the state a more bike-friendly destination. USBR 35 is the first nationally approved and interconnected cycling route in Indiana.

Through Indiana, USBR 35 begins at the shore of Lake Michigan and concludes on the shore of the Ohio River. It incorporates 16 counties, stretching from LaPorte County in northern Indiana down through Marion, Shelby, Bartholomew and Jackson counties, ending at Jeffersonville in Clark County just above the Kentucky border, with views of the Louisville skyline.

Outside the Hoosier State, the route actually begins in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, goes through Kentucky and connects to USBR 45 in Louisiana.

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“USBR 35, and the entire USBR system, is being developed to provide an easy-to-follow bicycle route network that allow states and local communities to leverage the economic, health, environmental and tourism benefits of the growing regional/cross-country bicycling sector,” said Jay Mitchell, transportation/bike and pedestrian planner for the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The USBR system currently has more than 12,000 miles of routes in 25 states, and the goal is to grow the system to 50,000 miles, according to the website of the Montana-based Adventure Cycling Association, one of the key organizations involved in the creation of USBR 35.

Initial work on USBR 35 started in 2012. INDOT partnered with advocacy groups such as Bicycle Indiana, the Hoosier Rails to Trails Council and the Indiana Metropolitan Planning Organization, working under the guidance of the Adventure Cycling Association, to make the project a reality, Mitchell said.

The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials approved the USBR 35 project in October 2015, and the route was publicly launched in May this year during National Bike Month.

Indiana has two other federal bicycle routes:

36, which incorporates northwest Indiana counties and communities in the Lake Michigan area

50, which runs east-west, just south of U.S. 40

Bartholomew County was chosen to be part of Route 35 because of it geographic location, roadway infrastructure and the cultural attractions in and around the county and Columbus, Mitchell said.

The city is home to more than 50 works of Modern architecture, for example.

Routes in the USBR system utilize existing paved roads, trails, paths, hard-crushed gravel surfaces, state highways, city streets and county roads, Mitchell said. They do not include mountain bike routes.

Typically the routes are intended for experienced long-distance bicycle riders who are used to riding on most types of roads. Recreational riders who are confident in their abilities and can navigate traffic also will find the routes useful, Mitchell said. USBR routes are not intended for novices, he said.

In Bartholomew County, USBR 35 starts along North County Road 500E, winds its way south, eventually using parts of River and Rocky Ford roads to reach Washington Street. It then heads west on the People Trail by Jonathan Moore Pike, turns south on Goeller Boulevard and follows several county roads until finishing on South Jonesville Road at the Jackson County line.

Local enthusiasm

Columbus resident and cycling enthusiast Campbell Thomason, 19, said he first learned about USBR 35 in a mountain biking magazine and subsequently learned more through online research.

He said he’s excited about the route.

“It opens up new horizons for people who do not normally do cross-country trips or across the state,” Thomason said.

A recent Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech High School graduate and soon-to-be freshman at the University of Indianapolis, Thomason said he became interested in cycling when he was about 8 years old. Work he did with bicycles to earn a badge in Boy Scouts deepened his interest in cycling, he said.

“Just the ability to get out by yourself or with friends, there’s always somewhere new you can cycle, and you can get out and explore,” he said.

Thomason said he often rides with family members or friends, and his longest trip was 50 to 60 miles.

The teen added that he’s looking forward to riding along USBR 35 in Bartholomew County, and in Marion County when he’s at college.

Joe Kahlenbeck, owner of the Columbus Cycling & Fitness store, said he’s heard people talk about the route and thinks it’s a good thing to have through the state. The fact that amenities available in each county near the route — such as restaurants, restrooms, bicycle shops, hotels, hospitals and retail stores — are being promoted as well is good, he added, because it provides needed resources and support for riders.

Promoting the route

The Indiana Office of Tourism Development has worked with Hamilton County Tourism Inc. to promote USBR 35. The county organization used a $20,000 state grant to create a website, indianausbr35.com, to provide information and resources for cyclists, said Noelle Szydlyk, director of planning and development, sport tourism and outdoor recreation for the state tourism organization.

Hamilton County Tourism and the state tourism office worked with all the counties along USBR 35 to obtain information that will help promote each county, Szydlyk said. The website includes general information about the route, information about each county, links to lists of amenities in each county near the route. Access to maps that cyclists can print to plan their trips is still being developed.

No mobile apps have been developed as of yet for USBR 35, Mitchell said, but INDOT is exploring funding for signage to place along the route.

Karen Niverson, executive director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center, said she’s happy to see Bartholomew County included in USBR 35.

“It’s fortuitous that Bartholomew County is included,” she said. “It gives us a chance to partner with other counties in a new way.”

The route also adds to bicycle opportunities it can promote on the visitor center’s website and when people stop by in person, she said.

“There’s a lot of visitors who walk into the center and ask us what to do and where to go. Because this is a pre-developed route, we can offer it and list the amenities,” Niverson said.

USBR 35 also is a nice alternative to riding along the city’s People Trail and taking the architectural tour by bicycle, she said.

Follow the route through Bartholomew County

Here is the route of United States Bicycle Route 35 through Bartholomew County:

South along North County Road 500E

West on East County Road 800N, through St. Louis Crossing

South on North County Road 50W

East on East County Road 550N

South on North County Road 25E

Merge south on River Road

West on Rocky Ford Road

South on Washington Street

West on People Trail along State Road 46 West/Jonathan Moore Pike

South on West Goeller Boulevard

Slight east then south on Terrace Lake Road

West on County Road 200S

South on County Road 400W

East on West County Road 930S

Northeast to West County Road 950S, then east on West County Road 950S

Cross Interstate 65 to East County Road 950S

East County Road 950S becomes Jackson Street in Jonesville

South on South Jonesville Road to the Jackson County line

For more information

To learn more about United States Bicycle Route 35 or get route details for the entire route, check these online resources:

indianausbr35.com (information)

indianatrails.com/content/usbr35 (digital map)

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.