As anyone who has been on the Diag during a school day knows, bikes zip by students on foot and weave in and out of the crowds nonstop. Since 2005, Ann Arbor has been a certified Silver-level Bike Friendly City, a distinction awarded by the League of American Bicyclists. The key to living up to and improving the University’s biking standards, however — and the goal the University should aim to achieve — is to establish a true biking culture on campus, where biking doesn’t simply replace carbon-neutral walking but replaces driving as well.
The University is already moving in the right direction. Outdoor Adventures’ Blue Bikes rental program is off to a strong start. A bike-sharing program slated for next year will increase student access to bikes with an inexpensive, convenient system. While it makes sense to place bike-sharing racks in central, high-traffic areas, planners should also consider the benefits of having plenty of bikes on the campus perimeter. Biking cuts down on travel time between classes, but if the only people who use bikes are those who would normally walk from point A to point B, the benefits are marginal. By encouraging those who drive to use a bike instead, the University’s bike culture — one where students choose to bike even though it might take a little longer and might require putting on an additional layer to combat winters — will thrive.
We pride ourselves on being the “leaders and best,” so let’s create a prominent biking culture and move to the front of the growing movement toward sustainable transportation on college campuses.