Getting around on two wheels is not only an efficient way to travel from class to class, but the statistics prove that traveling by bike is also becoming more popular among Virginia Tech students and staff.
While just 676 bicycles were registered through Tech in the 2011 academic year, that number more than doubled in 2012, when 1,387 cyclists could be found riding through campus. 2013 already boasts 976 bikers, a number that will only rise as the academic year continues.
In an effort to match the growing number of cyclists, 23 new bicycle racks have been installed around campus, providing over 230 new places for bikers to leave their wheels.
It is efforts like these that recently caused The League of American Bicyclists to designate Tech as a bronze level “Bicycle Friendly University.”
Since 1880, The League has represented America’s 57 million cyclists through advocacy and promotion of safer roads. According to The League’s website, the “Bicycle Friendly University” designation is unique for several reasons. In addition to the fact that young adults are wanting to drive less and ride more, university campuses are ideal settings for a bicycling lifestyle because of their defined borders and high density environments, the site said.
The Bicycle Friendly University program evaluates applicants’ efforts to promote bicycling in five primary areas: engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement and evaluation/planning, known as the “Five E’s.”
Virginia Tech is one of six schools in the state to be recognized for its efforts.
Students and professors have mixed opinions about the accuracy of Tech’s new distinction, however. Travis Head, assistant professor of studio art, agrees with the League of American Bicyclists.
“I probably bike to work about once every week or two,” Head said. “I haven’t been hit or hit anyone else. It doesn’t seem dangerous to ride your bike around town or the university. Plus, it’s actually faster to ride my bike than it is to drive.”
Jeff Peckins, a junior human nutrition, foods and exercise major, disagrees.
“I dislike people on bikes a lot,” Peckins said. “As a pedestrian, they go way too fast and you never know when they’re coming. I’ve been run into more than once.”
Peckins added that it’s scary when driving, because bikers don’t abide by the rules of the roads, which makes them more likely to be hit or cause traffic problems.
“Since they’re in between a pedestrian and a vehicle, they just do whatever is most convenient for them at the time,” Peckins said.
Not all students have a negative opinion about biking, though.
Priscilla Herzberg, a senior human development major, commutes to class regularly by bike, despite her recent accident with a Blacksburg Transit bus.
“I was in a bike lane about to enter the crosswalk and expected the bus to stop but the driver wasn’t looking at me,” Herzberg said. “By the time I realized he wasn’t looking at me and he didn’t see me, I was already in front of the bus.”
Herzberg didn’t sustain any serious injuries and didn’t allow the accident to change her opinion on biking.
“It didn’t scare me away from biking,” Herzberg said. “I do see drivers make the mistake of not looking for bikers all the time.”
Although Herzberg’s case is frightening, it is not uncommon. According to Virginia Tech Police records, there were 13 biking-related accidents in 2012 alone and many more are believed to be unreported. However, with over a thousand people choosing to transport by bike, the percentage involved in accidents is relatively small.
Tech has taken several steps to make this environmentally friendly form of transportation safer and more pleasant for everyone involved.
Debby Freed, the alternative transportation manager at Tech, is just one person taking charge of improving biking conditions on campus.
“About three years ago the League started looking at giving universities the ‘Bicycle Friendly’ designation,” Freed said. “That was exciting, because it gave us a roadmap to what we needed to do to improve cycling conditions on campus.”