C-U gets stamp of approval as biker friendly

Champaign-Urbana has been recognized as bicycle friendly for streets and businesses. Common Ground Food Co-op, a cooperatively-owned grocery store in downtown Urbana, has also been named a bicycle friendly business by the League of American Bicyclists.

Sarah Hoyle-Katz, education coordinator for Common Ground, said the business applied to be considered bicycle friendly. She said there are employee benefits in the form of federal tax perks. For employees who bike to work for over half of their shifts, then they will be able to receive up to $20 a month for bicycle-related services, such as purchasing a helmet, repairs, saving towards a new bike, or bike parts, she added.

Bike parking spaces are available at Common Ground, as well as a bike pump and tool kit for easy fixes, Hoyle-Katz said.

“We hope it draws in more bicyclists to our business,” she said. “We stive to be green.”

Streets around campus have also been recently recognized as bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

Ed Barsotti, executive director for the League of Illinois Bicyclists, said a Complete Streets Audit was completed for Champaign-Urbana streets.

“It’s our attempt to look at how well road agencies are designing (road projects) for walking and biking,” he said.

He said the pedestrian part of the audit requires that roads follow federal government recommendations, such as having one or two sidewalks along a road depending on that road’s traffic level. The bicycling part looks at bike lanes, side paths along roads and average comfort levels of adult bicyclists for travel purposes, Barsotti said.

Barsotti added that the league is a state-wide organization, and they have already audited the streets of Chicago. The city of Chicago received a score of 52.1 on a 100-point scale, while Champaign-Urbana received a score of 70.4, he said.

Charlie Smyth, one of the founding members of Champaign County Bikes, said the organization helps promote advocacy for bicyclists, including education, training and infrastructure for bicycling around the Champaign-Urbana area. Since the spring of last year, Urbana was named a bronze level bicycle friendly community, he added.

He said there are four levels designated by the league: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Only three cities are considered to be at the platinum level — Davis, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo.

Communities are judged based on evaluation and planning, engineering, education, encouragement and enforcement, according to the league’s official website. There must be accommodation of roads for bicyclists, existence of bike lanes, a bicycle master plan and education efforts, among other initiatives in place to receive the highest level of recognition.

He added that businesses can compliment a local environment if the city is already considered bicycle friendly because the infrastructure and education are already in place. Businesses can also encourage, as well as support, their employees and customers to bike to their store, Smyth said.

“I think it compliments being named a bicycle friendly business,” Smyth said. “It should be easier for businesses to be bicycle friendly if cities are bicycle friendly.”

Barsotti said environmental, health and financial factors influence a person’s decision to bike as their main mode of transportation.

“Bicycling is on the increase,” he said. “People choose to bike for a variety of reasons.”

He said bicycling is a part of the solution because it decreases traffic congestion and equalizes transportation equity because bicyclists do not need a car to travel.

“We try to advocate for better conditions for bicyclists,” Barsotti said.