UI uses recognition of bike friendliness as launch pad for future improvements

The University has been named bicycle friendly by the League of American Bicyclists.

Morgan Johnston, sustainability and transportation coordinator, said the league looks at five different facets of bicycle friendliness: engineering, education, enforcement, encouragement and evaluation. Some of the components of the recognition system consist of physical infrastructure in terms of putting in more bike lanes and bike parking, telling bicyclists appropriate ways to ride their bikes and setting up events to encourage more bicycling on campus, she said.

While the league has been around for more than 100 years, naming institutions as bicycle-friendly universities started January of this year. Johnston said the University applied this summer and received a bronze status of recognition.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure work (still to be done),” Johnston said. “I would like to see more education and encouragement.”

She said the University could organize group bicycle rides, as well as improve bike paths and their visibility. The city of Urbana was named a bicycle-friendly community last year, Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, or CUMTD, has been named a bicycle-friendly business among other local businesses and Champaign intends to apply in the next several years for recognition, Johnston added.

Cynthia Hoyle, transportation planning consultant at CUMTD, said the University will need to implement its bike plan, address dangerous infrastructure and enforce tighter bike security. She said a coordinated, year-round education program will help new students become adjusted to the bicycling rules on campus.

“We really need a program to put it all together,” Hoyle said.

Andy Blacker, spokesman for facilities and services, said the recognition from the league helps the University gain support for other bicycle projects and endeavors in the future. He said the efforts of the University have paid off after it was granted this award.

University students can support bike friendliness by continuing to choose to use their bicycles as a means of transportation in the campus vicinity, Blacker said.

Johnston said prospective incoming freshmen consider the campus’s transportation options when deciding where to attend school.

“They do look at the options for transportation,” she said. “We hope that it will encourage those who use active transportation to choose us.”

Johnston said she would like to see University students follow bicycle safety rules, such as displaying a light during nighttime bike rides or stopping at stop signs.

“We have seen an increase in cyclists following the rules of the road. We’re moving in the right direction,” she said. “There should be a culture of following those rules.”

The recognition of being named a bicycle-friendly university is another step for the community to gain a better reputation of welcoming more bikers.

“They’re excited that they’ve achieved the designation,” Hoyle said. “It brings national attention to our community.”