A comprehensive guide to getting around campus

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The Daily Illini Photo File

Bikes, MTD buses and cars are a few ways for students to travel around campus.

By Matt Novelli, Managing Editor for Online

Students at the University are lucky to be a part of the Champaign-Urbana community — an unexpectedly lively and diverse area in Central Illinois. C-U is connected with bike paths and a comprehensive transit district, that makes travel easy. It’s a good idea for new students to familiarize themselves with C-U’s travel options to enhance their college experience.

Bikes: A powerful tool

Learning how to ride and maintain a bike in a micro-urban community like C-U is important. Getting from the north end of campus to the south end is a 20-minute walk or a  five-minute bike ride for someone familiar with the bike paths.

The University is home to the Campus Bike Center, a hands-on classroom and workshop for students interested in cycling. Refurbished bikes and parts can be bought on the cheap, and the center occasionally hosts safety workshops. Memberships are $30 or eight hours of volunteer work.

For students who don’t already own a bike, campus is a great place to buy one. It’s safest to buy a secondhand “daily driver” bike to prevent theft. Bikes are abundant on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist — some community members fix and sell bikes to students as a side hustle. Be sure to go on a test ride first, and never buy a used helmet.

Ride-share bikes are new to C-U, arriving on campus in 2019 and quickly becoming a student favorite. Bluish-green E-bikes are scattered around campus and unlockable with the Veo mobile app for a dollar. Veo bikes are great for last-minute travel or getting home late at night. However, they aren’t reliable or cost-effective enough for daily use.

Bike theft is not uncommon in the area, so invest in a strong U-lock and avoid combination locks or easily cut cable locks. Learn to ride defensively and know what the door zone is. Bike registration through the University is advertised as mandatory but not strictly enforced. Registration stickers cost $10 per bike. More information about bike registration is available at the Bike at Illinois website.

Buses: Free for students

The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, or MTD, serves campus and the surrounding area with a comprehensive and frequent bus service. Bus fare is included in tuition, so rides are free with an i-card. Many bus stops on campus don’t require a fare. These stops, called “iStops,” are marked with orange bus stop signs.

Many students, especially freshmen, think they’ll never need the bus, or believe in the stigmas surrounding public transit. These same students find themselves relying on MTD when Illinois winter hits. Learning the basics of the bus system early can prevent you from getting stranded or missing class.

MTD also offers SafeRides, an on-demand van service that offers rides when no safe alternatives are available. Rides can be ordered with a phone call or through the SafeRides Connect App. More information is available on the SafeRides website.

Up-to-date bus times can be found on mtd.org, but some students opt to use the UIUC Bus App, the Transit app or just Google Maps.

Cars: A double-edged sword

Having a car on campus means leasing a parking spot and worrying about maintenance. New students can easily get by without a car on campus, although cars are the most comfortable way to go grocery shopping. Cars are also essential for students living in rural areas.

Parking spots are leased through property companies and the City of Champaign, so it’s best to shop around before deciding on a location. There’s not much free parking in Champaign, but plenty of free street parking in Urbana.

Micromobility: Getting around can be fun

Electric scooters, Onewheels and mini-segways are increasing in popularity and are a common sight around town — Hoverboards were banned from all campus facilities in 2016 due to safety concerns.

Many roads on campus are smooth and well-lit. Longboarding or skateboarding to class is common, and many students bring their boards into the classroom. The Ikenberry Commons is a great place to learn how to skate and even has a lockable skateboard rack.

Walking: Always an option

The campus area is quite walkable; most amenities can be reached within 20 minutes on foot. Google maps offers solid walking directions, but doesn’t always account for shortcuts and cut-throughs. Many campus buildings are open during the daytime, and cutting through them can shave time off a commute.

Traveling on campus may seem daunting at first, but practice makes perfect. Syllabus week is a great time to explore and get a feel for campus. A stroll through the Japan House Gardens or a bike ride through Meadowbrook Park are great ways to relieve stress as long as you can figure out how to get there.

 

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