Thursday, August 18, 2011

An update on efforts to promote cycling on and around U of I campus

An update on efforts to promote cycling on and around U of I campus

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As the University of Illinois again bustles with students, I thought it would be a good time to look over efforts to facilitate bicycling on campus. Toward that end, I spoke recently with Morgan Johnston, who is both Sustainability Coordinator and Transportation Demand Management Coordinator with Facilities & Services.

Johnston was happy to announce the completion of a Campus Bicycle Plan to be released soon, which was crafted by a task force that included representatives from the cities of Champaign and Urbana, the C-U Mass Transit District and the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission. I should add that among all of the people and entities associated with local efforts to promote bicycling, Johnston called attention to the citizen group, The aim of the plan is to bring cycling infrastructure on campus up to current national standards.

Johnston emphasized that while the plan is important for connecting campus efforts with efforts that have been developing in Urbana and Champaign in recent years, much has already been accomplished in the University District.

For example, Illinois Street has become a heavily preferred route for cycling between Urbana and central campus, thanks to the traffic light that facilitates crossing Lincoln Avenue, and the on-street bike lanes that run from that intersection to Goodwin.

Goodwin Avenue itself has been converted into what planners term a “complete street,” which means it was reconfigured to better accommodate not just cars, but all users. In this particular case that means the addition of curb bump-outs to reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians at intersections; enhanced stops for the loading and unloading of mass transit buses; and dedicated on-street bike lanes for cyclists.

Similar changes are currently nearing completion on Fourth Street in Champaign.

In addition to pointing out changes in infrastructure, Johnston reminded me that the Campus Bike Project is now in its second year of operation. Located in garage space provided by the Prairie Research Institute and operated with funding from the Student Sustainability Committee and Facilities & Services, the Campus Bike Project is a nonprofit, membership-based repair space. It’s a place where students, faculty and staff who join can drop by to do all sorts of work on their bikes, from putting air in the tires to a complete overhaul. The Campus Bike Project also sells refurbished bikes (which come with a one-year membership), and offers a build-a-bike program, which allows members to create their own ride from a salvaged bike at very little cost.

The Student Sustainability Committee has also funded the purchase of two permanent kiosks for bike repairs to be installed on campus, one to be located near the Illini Union, and the other near the Campus Bike Project. These ingenious repair stands, called “Fixits,” provide easy access to an air pump and the basic tools needed to keep bikes rolling 24-7.

Anyone who has searched in vain for an open spot to lock a bike on campus will be interested to know that more bike parking is on the horizon. A survey was conducted last May to help determine where the needs are most critical, and the Student Sustainability Committee has provided funding for design. Installation of the first new parking stands associated with this effort will begin at the Law Building within the next month.