Monon Trail Blazers: 4 People Improving the Path

It thrives on a few characters who improve this linear park for a million-or-so other users. Meet them here.

The Activist

Last summer, some bike shops saw a sudden flurry of flat tires among riders. But no one knew why—until IndyCog executive director Kevin Whited and a few members of the cycling advocacy group rented three large magnets on wheels for about $50 and hooked them to the backs of their bikes. Just south of the Kessler Boulevard bridge, Whited heard what sounded like machine-gun fire as thousands of tiny black furniture tacks pinged the magnets. They found another batch 40 feet away.
Now Whited and IndyCog have set their sights on extending the Monon’s hours. In September, they will spearhead a campaign to have it be open 24 hours a day, a move Whited argues will increase users and, in turn, everyone’s safety. “We hope it will happen by 2014. We have a really bike-friendly mayor, so I think it’s doable,” he says. “This year, I’d give it a 50 percent chance.”

The Philanthropist

In 2004, Nancy Stimson was enjoying a routine bike ride on the Monon when she got “dusted” by a fellow rider. As he cruised past her, she noticed an acronym across the rear of his Lycra pants—“BAP.” Later, the same thing happened again. Her curiosity piqued, Stimson Googled the three letters and discovered that they stood for “Bicycle Action Project,” a defunct local charity designed to give bikes to kids in exchange for work.
Stimson decided to start her own version of the program—called Freewheelin’ Community Bikes—and allow kids 10 to 18 years old to earn a reconditioned bicycle. Participants learn basic bike mechanics and safe-riding techniques and can advance all the way up to “black apron” status, which qualifies them for a paid apprenticeship. “Showing up when promised and following through on commitments are also habits we are endeavoring to teach,” Stimson says.

The Busker

On a warm weekday in April, a group of five young musicians jammed just off the Monon Greenway on Main Street in Carmel, entertaining passersby with covers of Alice In Chains and Jason Mraz songs. They go by the name The Street Feet for their tendency to perform barefoot. In front of them sits an open guitar case with wads of cash and coins, and a paper sign that reads, “We love money Yes We do We Love Money How Bout You!”
Cameron Campbell, the 20-year-old frontman who lives in Carmel, says the group usually plays three days a week, in populated locations on the trail in Carmel and Broad Ripple. On a recent day, Campbell made $58—extra money to supplement his day-job income. He’s one of two permanent members of The Street Feet (the others come and go), and the group doesn’t often perform anywhere else—making them the Monon’s own garage band.

The Shoe-Giver

The only thing Andrea Johnson likes more than using the Monon is helping others enjoy the trail, too. Since 2011, the co-owner of the BlueMile shoe store has given away 171 pairs of $110 jogging shoes to homeless men who join Back on My Feet, a nonprofit that matches Wheeler Mission residents and other disadvantaged Hoosier men with running buddies—like successful business folks—who double as mentors. “It’s helpful for these guys to see people who are exercising on a daily basis, and how the Monon can be part of an exercise program in our lives,” says Krieg DeVault law partner David Jose, a team leader for Back on My Feet’s Wheeler Mission volunteers.
Those who complete the program receive up to $1,250 for an approved expense that will help get their lives back on track. Since April 2011, 42 participants have found jobs—a significant return on investment for a pair of running shoes.
And one with good intentions …

The Popsicle Vendor

Nicey Treats owner Jeff Fisher was denied permission to sell his frozen pops from a bike-mounted cooler on the Monon Trail. Why? Don’t Nicey Treats and the Monon sound like a perfect combination? Doesn’t matter—vending on the Monon is strictly prohibited, a philosophy established by one of the trail’s pioneers, Ray Irvin, back in the ’90s. Irvin, the founding director of the Greenways Foundation and at the time a city-county councillor, adamantly opposed hotdog and ice-cream carts because they tend to spawn traffic jams and litter on a trail and siphon money from the brick-and-mortar businesses, which—unlike cart vendors, he says—pay property taxes and create jobs. Irvin left the Greenways post in 2003, but his successors have maintained his rule. The only thing you can peddle (well, pedal) on the Monon is a bike.

Photos by Michael Schrader

This article appeared in the June 2013 issue.