Ask ELi: Where to Bike for Recreation
Above: A barn along Germany Road.
As springtime temperatures rise, you have probably seen more and more people on bicycles cruising the streets and bike paths around town. So where can you go around here for recreational bicycling? The area around East Lansing has some good options for bicyclists of all skill-levels, whether you are totally new to cycling, or a regular roadie looking for some new rides.
Lansing River Trail: With miles of designated bicycle lanes and low speed limits, the campus of Michigan State University is an inviting place to ride a bike. In addition, it is East Lansing’s gateway to the Lansing River Trail.
Beginning alongside Kalamazoo Street just west of the Breslin Student Events Center, the Lansing River Trail is a paved, multi-use pathway snaking along the banks of the Red Cedar and Grand Rivers for miles through the heart of Lansing. Riding along the Lansing River Trail, it is sometimes easy to forget you are in the middle of an urban area. If you keep your eyes peeled, along the forested riverbanks you can spot muskrats, herons, turtles, and even bald eagles.
With access to Potter Park Zoo, REO Town, Downtown, and Old Town, it is easy for a ride on the River Trail to become part of an activity-filled afternoon. A southern spur of the trail (shown above) follows Sycamore Creek all the way to Hawk Island Park. With no motor traffic to contend with, the River Trail is a good route for children and beginner cyclists.
Inter-Urban Pathway to Haslett: Like the River Trail, the Inter-Urban Pathway is a paved, multi-use route for non-motorized traffic, which makes it a good option for beginner cyclists. It is called the Inter-Urban Pathway because it goes from East Lansing to Haslett. The pathway it takes is the original right-of-way for the "Interurban" streetcar that ran from Lansing to Lake Lansing, according to historian Kevin Forsyth.
To get to the Inter-Urban Pathway, head east on Burcham Road, where you can take advantage of designated bicycle lanes for most of the ride. After navigating the low-speed, cyclist-friendly traffic circle at Park Lake Road, you will find the pathway entrance straight ahead on the left (north) side of the road, at an opening in a fence.
The Inter-Urban Pathway is mostly a straight shot west-to-east, and it is straddled much of the way by marshy wetlands. Wildlife is abundant, including deer, so exercise some caution; bicycles are speedy and quiet, and you may take a critter or two by surprise. The eastern end of the pathway spits you out at the intersection of Marsh and Haslett Roads.
If you are confident enough to ride a short distance on a busier road like Marsh Road, you can head north to Lake Drive. Featuring designated bike lanes, Lake Drive loops for several miles around Lake Lansing and offers nice views of the water, especially at sunset (below).
If you go south from the Haslett end of the Inter-Urban Pathway on Marsh Road, you can ride to the Meridian Township Farmers’ Market.
Germany Road: If you’re looking to get out of town, consider riding out to bucolic Germany Road in Williamston. A narrow country lane (shown below) with minimal motor traffic, Germany Road cuts across scenic reaches of farmland. With farm fields rippling in the afternoon wind and the occasional stand of stately oaks offering respite from the sun, some segments of Germany Road feel like riding through a postcard image of Midwest farm country.
The best way to get to Germany Road is via the Inter-Urban Pathway and Haslett Road. Most of Haslett Road features bike lanes, although the road surface is often less than ideal. Germany Road begins about a mile south of Haslett Road, and runs seven miles between Meridian and Williamston Roads. From downtown East Lansing, a roundtrip ride to the end of Germany Road and back is just over 23 miles.
Sleepy Hollow State Park via Upton and Shepardsville Roads: About 20 miles north of Michigan State University, Sleepy Hollow State Park features miles of hiking trails, beaches, and campgrounds centered around Lake Ovid, making it a great destination for an afternoon road ride or an all-day outing at a park.
Heading north on Upton Road is not the most direct route to the park, but it is a far more pleasant cycling experience than the busy, high-speed traffic of Chandler Road. After a brief ride on Round Lake Road, the route heads north again on Shepardsville Road, winding through woods and farmland. As you close in on Sleepy Hollow State Park, the road pitches up and down over a series of small hills.
Round trip, it is over 40 miles to Sleepy Hollow State Park and back to East Lansing, so make sure to bring a snack with you. Also, be aware that you will be sharing the road with motorists traveling at high speed, so you might want to hold off on this one until you are quite confident on the road.
The map below, from East Lansing resident Thomas Baumann, shows in red dedicated bike trails and in purple roads connecting them. For a larger version, click here. (Thomas also contributed additional reporting to this article.)
Editor’s note: East Lansing now has three bicycle stores: The Bike Shop at 303 M.A.C. Avenue, Evergreen Cycles and Repairs at 545 E. Grand River Avenue, and Velocipede Peddler at 1353 E. Grand River Avenue. Readers interested in more information about local bicycling can check out the Tri-County Bicycle Association’s website.