Whether on foot, by bike, or on four wheels, navigating BN is an easy trip

By Mary Ann Ford

It takes Irene Cooper only 7 minutes to drive from her eastside Bloomington home to her job at State Farm Corporate Headquarters.

“In the Chicago area, I was driving 40 minutes to my office 5 miles away,” she said. “I’m from New York, lived in Chicago and love city life but it’s hard not to appreciate a certain ease of living found here in Central Illinois.

A grocery store is just a few blocks from Cooper’s house. It’s a 5-minute drive to either of two Bloomington-Normal shopping malls, a home improvement store and a bookstore.

Because Bloomington-Normal has more restaurants per capita than any other city, there are many within a short drive and some within walking distance of her house.

Cooper’s situation isn’t all that unique in Bloomington-Normal.  There are grocery stores throughout the two communities and a new co-op grocery store being built in the center of Bloomington in an area considered a food desert.

The Twin Cities has more nearly 60 parks, a zoo, an ice skating rink and two dog parks, making it quick and easy to have some fun. 

In addition, there are a variety of entertainment venues including the historic Normal Theater, which offers classical movies and independent films; live music at The Castle Theater; the Bloomington Center for Performing Arts; the U.S. Cellular Coliseum; and the Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center located at the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington.

If you would rather ride a bike than drive a car to get where you’re going, that’s not a problem either. The Town of Normal has been recognized as a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.

Besides designated bike share lanes around the Twin Cities, there is Constitution Trail, a 45-plus-mile linear park.

Margaret Davis of Bloomington routinely rides her bicycle to her job in Normal.

“I get on Constitution Trail a block from my house in Bloomington and ride safely to Normal,” she said.  “It’s a dream bike commute.”

She has saddlebags on her bike to carry her work clothes and laptop.

“My employer (Hile Group) is a bike friendly business,” she said.

Its restrooms have towels and wash clothes and a drying rack so she can easily change into her work clothes.

After a day behind the desk, Davis said the bike ride back to her house gets her endorphins flowing, gives her clarity and allows her to be “decompressed” by the time she reaches home.

She also rides on Constitution Trail in her free time and sometimes rides on the street to go to a nearby grocery store.

“If you’re comparing [Bloomington-Normal] with the suburbs, I think here is better,” said Cooper.  “Sometimes the suburbs have the problems of a city (traffic) without any of the convenience.  What this community offers is an ease of living. No lines at the dry cleaners, grocery stores, movie theaters.

“Always plenty of parking wherever you go. You can easily get a doctor’s appointment and a table at a restaurant,” she said.

If public transit is your mode of choice, BN boasts the 2015 American Public Transportation Association's Outstanding Public Transportation System for North America, Connect Transit.  The bus service run 17 routes throughout the metro area.  Frequency during peak hours on weekdays will have a bus at your stop every 30 minutes, and end-to-end route time is about 15 minutes.

Then there is the easy commute to work. Bloomington-Normal is included in the “40 Best Commuter Cities in Illinois,” a list compiled by Obrella, an insurance information resource. It estimates the average Twin City commute is about 17 minutes.  The national average is more than 25 minutes. In Chicago, it’s more than 30 minutes.

Just think what you could do with all the extra time you save by living in Bloomington- Normal – take in a movie, spend more time with the family, take a walk or just relax.