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New drive to make US universities bike-friendly

BikeRadar.com: New drive to make US universities bike-friendly

By Kirsten Robbins

The League of American Bicyclists wants to encourage colleges and universities to become more cycle-friendly.

For 2010 the Washington DC-based organisation is expanding its successful Bicycle-Friendly Communities, States and Business programmes to include educational institutions.

“Colleges and universities are unique entities that have contol over their own streets and parking,” said League president Andy Clarke. “We want to extend the brand a little and add colleges and universities.

"Stanford University is on the list already and Davis and its university [in California] applied together. There are one or two there already but there are many more that would apply independent of their city. Part of the goal is to encourage cities and their neighboring university to join in and figure out together how to become more bike-friendly.”

The Bicycle-Friendly Communities (BFC) awards programme was launched in 2003 to recognise municipalities that support cycling and provide a model of how to be more bike-friendly. Communities are awarded with platinum, gold, silver or bronze status according to their level of support for cycling.

There are currently 123 communities across the US with award status, including three platinum members: Boulder in Oregon, Eugene in Portland and Davis in California.

The BFC expanded in 2008 to include Bike-Friendly States and Bike-Friendly Businesses. In the past two years, more than 30 states have been granted award status, including silver awards for Washington and Wisconsin.

At the end of 2009 there were more than 100 businesses signed up, including four with platinum status: Bicycle Sport Shop in Austin, Texas; Bike Gallery in Portland, Oregon; New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado; and Quality Bicycle Products in Bloomington, Minnesota.

“We give all communites that apply specific feedback,” said Elizabeth Kiker, vice president of the League. “We have local and national reviewers to give advice to each community, no matter how small they are. We get calls from the smallest towns and we go to each one to give summit meetings where we speak about what each community can do to help. We get remarkable change from that.”

The League accepts only two rounds of applications a year, in March and September. “About one-third of the applicants are awarded some status,” Kiker said. “But some communities apply several times before getting it. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response and it’s something that has been growing since the program started. The application is intense because we want it to be a valid reward for each community.”

Communities and organisations can apply online, but Kiker said they should be prepared for an in-depth evaluation. Municipalities are classed according to an audit of their respective engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation efforts – The five Es.

“Enforcement is one of the hardest because it’s making sure police officers are enforcing the law for motorists and cyclists,” Kiker said. “It’s the trickier one but the most important one.

"Then encouragement is what the community does to encourage cycling in the area – for example, local bike rides or bike-to-work weeks. They have to show ways that the community is bike-friendly. Educations is based on how well the community teaches bike safety and friendliness.

“Engineering is usually the first one that communities excel at. It’s to show how many bike lanes they have or how firendly their streets are to cyclists, what percentage of streets have bike lanes.

"Lastly, evaluation is about where and how communities will get money to build things like bike lanes. We want people to look at the overall bike plan and evaluate the success of the programs.”

Clarke hopes that every state, community, business and university in the US will join the Bike-Friendly programmes, but admitted that the most important goal is to get every community to be more bicycle-friendly.

“It would be fabulous if every state has at least one community admitted at one level or another in our programme,” he said. “In most states there’s one community or another that stands above when it comes to cycling.

"We tend to focus on communities that have high levels of cycling already but haven’t joined the program yet. It would be great to have all 50 states but that’s not necessarily and end in itself. Some states are always going to be behind one another, that’s the nature of things.”