Why more than 200 universities are turning to bikes to improve campuses

The healthy initiatives, which are rewarded nationally each year, have many benefits for students and institutions.

Sustainability, health and wellness, keeping communities connected and space on campus are all issues that get the attention of college leaders as they plan for the future. And they can all be connected in a roundabout way through one simple, fun vehicle that can breathe surprising life into campuses: the bicycle.

The League of American Bicyclists recently designated 33 new institutions as Bicycle Friendly Universities, and many of them are on the list not because they have expansive bike trails or paths. Some urban universities achieved the status because they have found ways to expand the use of two-wheelers and make room for riding over parking.

“On many campuses bikes are simply another way to get around, but at Bicycle Friendly Universities, we’ve seen that students, faculty and staff are encouraged to think beyond the utility of bikes as transportation, truly valuing their ability to foster a healthier, safer, more connected campus life,” Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, said. “This round of BFUs are not only making it possible for people to bike around campus but are implementing policies, programs and infrastructure improvements that encourage people to drive less and bike more for their health and the planet.”

There are more than 220 institutions that have been given Bike-Friendly designations by the League on various levels—from honorable mention to platinum—and another 300 that applied but did not make the cut. Those that are chosen typically have made special efforts to get more bikes on campus through bike-share programs, education and by giving bicyclists a more prominent space over drivers.

At New York University, for example, the bike spaces are nearly triple that of automobile parking spots, and the school offers a huge number of bike shares. NYU is in the silver category after receiving an honorable mention last year. Three others moved up from that status too, including Western Washington University, the University of San Francisco and the University at Albany in New York.

Three schools were granted honorable mentions this year for making inroads into being more bike-friendly: Cal-Poly Pomona, the University of Delaware and West Chester University in Pennsylvania.

Among the highest achievers are the platinum-level institutions, led by eight that are going the extra mile for bicyclists, including four from California: Stanford University, UC-Irvine, UC-Santa Barbara and UC-Davis. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Portland State University, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Colorado State University are the others.

This year, UC-Davis had its status renewed thanks to a number of initiatives, including the lowering of speed limits across campus to 15 mph and the implementation of a rule that requires all residential buildings to have at least 133 designated bike parking spaces. To further push students and employees to walk or bike, Davis cut off all monthly and yearly parking. Daily parking means those who want to drive in must go through an app each day and pay.

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Like NYU, Franklin & Marshall University in Pennsylvania is also in the silver category with one of the best strategies in the country to get students on bikes – a four-week free loaner program that also gives them helmets and locks. The effort is part of the university’s lean toward a more sustainable campus environment. And it gets students more healthy in the process. “Schools like UC Davis and Franklin & Marshall College prove that making bikes the most sensible transportation option for campus life can have a huge impact on getting students across the country out of cars and on bikes,” Amelia Neptune, director of the League’s Bicycle Friendly America program, said.

The other newcomers, those who moved up and renewals of status, include:

  • Indiana University Bloomington
  • Loyola Marymount University
  • North Carolina State University
  • Northwestern University
  • Ohio University, Athens
  • Rice University
  • University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
  • University of Louisville
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • University of South Carolina, Columbia
  • University of Texas, Austin
  • Western Washington University
  • American University
  • Boston University, Charles River
  • Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Georgetown University
  • Gonzaga University
  • Gustavus Adolphus College
  • Minnesota State University, Mankato
  • Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville
  • SUNY Cortland
  • University at Albany
  • University of Central Florida
  • University of Illinois Springfield
  • University of San Francisco
  • University of Texas at Arlington
  • University of the South
  • University of West Georgia
  • Vanderbilt University
Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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