Expanding Bike Culture to U.S. College Campuses
University campuses across the U.S. are working to incorporate bicycle culture into the daily lives of students. Photo by christine592.

University campuses across the U.S. are working to incorporate bicycle culture into the daily lives of students. Photo by christine592.

Rutgers University-Newark hosted a group bike ride last week to encourage bicycle commuting around campus. Students rode their bikes along the one-mile path to Newark’s Branch Brook Park and past the cherry blossoms, as part of the university’s effort to promote bicycle commuting for a healthy, active and involved community.

The City of Newark, in general, has been making efforts to promote bicycling by offering group bike rides through Branch Brook Park. The Brick City Bike Collective, a bike advocacy group based out of Newark, organized the 2011 Newark Branchbrook Park Cherry Blossom Bike Tour that will take place next Saturday, April 16 at 1:00 p.m.

As part of Newark’s effort, Rutgers University has also been actively encouraging bicycling over the last year, according to NJ.com. “University officials held city tours, built a new bike park and offered free loaner bikes to persuade students, faculty and staff to leave their cars at home,” the article reports.

“We’re trying to change the commuting culture here,” Brad Armstrong, a representative from Rutgers-Newark’s Commuter Transit and Parking Services, said.

With a growing student population and a limited number of parking spaces, the group bike ride also served as an alternative mode of transportation to students who live on campus. The university pursues strict pricing policies to discourage cars on campus. Resident students are required to purchase parking permits that cost up to an annual fee of about $1,000. Commuter students can purchase the same permit for $600.

TreeHugger reports that the University of New England made a similar effort to decrease car use on campus. According to the article, the university reduced the number of freshmen who brought cars to campus from 75 percent to 25 percent by distributing 105 bikes the first week of school.

Rutgers-New Brunswick and other university campuses around the country are also exploring bike-share programs. “Ripon College has invested $50,000 in a program where 200 Trek mountain bikes, helmets and locks were bought , and about 180 freshmen signed up for the program,” according to TreeHugger.

Universities are also looking into methods of making bike-share programs convenient by linking bike-share accounts with student ID cards, which are already a significant part of student life since they provide access to meal plans, residencies and debit accounts. According to the article, St. Xavier in Chicago is one of those universities.

“All 925 resident students automatically become members through their ID cards,” TreeHugger continues. “Students can wave their ID card over a docking port. The port is attached to a rubber tube, which can be used as a lock and opened by entering an access code.”

But John Pucher, a professor of urban transportation policy at Rutgers University’s Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, has concerns over the spread of bike-share programs, according to The New York Times.

“American and Canadian cities have been making impressive advances in the provision of more extensive and improved cycling infrastructure, yet have made little if any progress on the crucial complementary measures needed to restrict car use and make it more expensive,” Pucher said in an interview with Momentum magazine.

However, universities around the country have been making strides in incorporating bicycling into the daily lives of students. Jeffrey Riecke reported several examples in last Friday’s TheCityFix Picks: “The League of American Bicyclists announced its awards for America’s Bike Friendly Universities. Stanford University was honored with the highest award of Platinum, and University of California, Davis and Santa Barbara shared the next highest award of Gold.”

Learning to share the road is certainly an important aspect of traffic safety, but it’s critical to accept that all parties sharing the road are responsible for learning the rights of way. Encouraging bicycling and making it a convenient and accessible method of transportation is one way of building the support necessary for expanding bicycle culture.

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