IUP campus unfriendly to cyclists

A Civic Project story

Indiana University of Pennsylvania senior Isaac J. Samay waits outside the Indiana Schwinn Cycling and Fitness Center before the first Indiana Critical Mass bicycle ride on Sept. 28, 2012. Photo by Natalie Hotaling.

Indiana University of Pennsylvania senior Isaac J. Samay waits outside the Indiana Schwinn Cycling and Fitness Center before the first Indiana Critical Mass bicycle ride on Sept. 28, 2012. Photo by Natalie Hotaling.

By Natalie Hotaling

INDIANA — Snow lightly circles through the air on a chilly morning in mid-November. As a harsh wind picks up, Isaac J. Samay pulls his knit cap lower on his forehead. He steps his beat-up sneakers into the straps on his bicycle pedals and takes a deep breath.

His daily commute to campus begins.

Samay, 23, of Johnstown, is a political science major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The senior has been biking as his sole means of transportation since enrolling at IUP in 2009.

For Samay, the snow is not a deterrent to his commuting. The campus, on the other hand, is.

“I ride every day,” Samay said in a Nov. 8 interview at The Artists Hand Gallery on Philadelphia Street near his apartment. “I’ve never really thought twice about biking. It keeps me fit and is completely sustainable. The only problem is really once I get to campus. There’s no place for bikes to go. It’s just a mess.”

Samay isn’t the only Indiana resident voicing a concern for a more bicycle-friendly campus. A new subcommittee of the Indiana Borough Planning Commission  is “looking for ways to enhance walking and biking opportunities,” according to a Sept. 29 article in The Indiana Gazette. The article said the subcommittee met with a consultant from Aspect Data Planning of Pittsburgh, community planning and bicycle/pedestrian experts, to assess physical improvements that are “conducive to walking and biking and those that are detrimental.”

“University towns generally are accommodating to bicyclists because so many students want to ride,” Jason Kambitsis, Aspect consultant, said at the subcommittee’s monthly meeting on Oct. 17.

Students should be involved in future planning meetings, and educational programs are important to a bicycle-friendly community, Kambitsis said at the meeting during which Aspect presented the first draft of a walking and biking plan for Indiana.

W. Thomas Borellis, IUP special assistant to the vice president for special projects, attended the planning meeting on behalf of the university. He said the university should be doing more to become bike-friendly.

“Bikers need to be thought of differently, and that isn’t happening here,” Borellis said in an interview on Oct. 22 in Sutton Hall. He said an extension of the Hoodlebug Trail, which begins at Hoss’s Restaurant at 1198 Wayne Ave. and winds through campus to Philadelphia Street, is the only physical biking issue being addressed by the university. And the trail is not included in the IUP Long-Range Facilities Master Plan.

Bicycles are mentioned twice in the 102-page plan, which was developed by an Ann Arbor, Mich., planning consultant and adopted by the IUP Council of Trustees on Dec. 16, 2010. The plan was revised and released in August 2011, according to the IUP website.

“Bicycles are a prominent method of transportation at IUP,” according to page 18 of the plan under “Bicycle Circulation”: “There are no designated bike lanes or paths on campus; bicyclists instead must contend with both vehicles and pedestrians on the campus and roadways.”

On page 48, the plan says the university should work “with its municipal neighbors and Indiana County to coordinate efforts to promote safe and functional bike routes” and says an increase in the bicycle-using population reduces “pollutants and negative environmental impacts from motor vehicles” and parking demand.

Implementation of bike-traffic areas, signage and parking areas would help, but the university needs educational programs and research about biking to encourage bike ridership and create a safer campus, Borellis said in the interview.

“We don’t have anything in the plan, and that’s a lack,” Borellis said.

The lack of student education causes a lot of problems on campus, Officer Tami Cramer, crime prevention specialist and member of the IUP police bicycle patrol unit, said in a Nov. 15 interview at the university police station. She said most accidents are due to bicyclists not knowing where they can ride and pedestrians not knowing how to interact with bicyclists like her.

“Love us or hate us, we’re here,” Cramer said. “There are 15,000-plus finding their way on and around campus. We are a part of the community.”

The number of registered bikes on campus has decreased since 2010, according to Cramer. The number fell to five in 2012 from 14 in 2010, a 64.3 percent decrease.

But the number of registered bike does not reflect the actual number of bikers on campus, Cramer said. She gauges an increase of bikes on campus by the full parking racks and storage rooms in residential buildings.

The 2010 completion of the eight suite-style residential halls on IUP’s campus, known as the “Residential Revival” according to IUP’s website, brought indoor storage facilities for bicyclists. The storage rooms are monitored by cameras and are accessible only with an I-card.

But they were not taken seriously when first established, said Lenny Kasubick, contract administration manager for the Foundation for IUP.

The storage rooms were included in the design of the suites to gain Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design status . To earn LEED certification, a project must earn a minimum of 40 points on a 110-point LEED rating scale that includes categories such as sustainability and energy performance, according to the United States Green Building Council website.

“We didn’t think anyone would use them,” Kasubick said in a Nov. 15 interview at IUP’s Office of Housing, Residential Living and Dining. “At first no one did, but as soon as we went in and showed students how to use them, the rooms were filled.”

The usage of the room still surprises Kasubick. He said he now believes that more people will use energy-sustainability infrastructure on campus, so long as education is provided.

“We laughed when we were first doing it, but I’ll go into these storage rooms and they will be fairly full,” Kasubick said. “We just need to educate and promote.”

PROGRESS LIKE THIS comforts commuters like Samay. Designating areas for bikes and focusing on educating students about those areas are the first steps toward becoming a bike-friendly campus, Samay said in a Nov. 15 interview.

“Right now it doesn’t seem like a priority to the university,” Samay said. “Raising awareness around biking could encourage students to choose it as a lifestyle. Education would make a difference in so many ways.”

Natalie Hotaling, a junior majoring in journalism at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is from York.


Sidebar: To get involved here

Around the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus, students and staffers can join the Indiana Bicycle Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group formed to help “foster a bicycling community in Indiana,” according to the group’s website and Facebook page.

In addition, the Indiana Critical Mass group organizes a bike ride on the last Friday of every month. The group encourages biking within Indiana and educates bicyclists on state-biking laws. Information is available on the group’s Facebook page.

Residents, business owners and students from Indiana wait outside Indiana Schwinn Cycling and Fitness Center to begin Indiana's first Critical Mass, Sept. 28, 2012. Nearly 40 people took part in the group's inaugural ride. Photo by Natalie Hotaling.

Residents, business owners and students from Indiana wait outside Indiana Schwinn Cycling and Fitness Center to begin Indiana’s first Critical Mass, Sept. 28, 2012. Nearly 40 people took part in the group’s inaugural ride. Photo by Natalie Hotaling.


Sidebar: To get involved elsewhere

In addition to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, four other campuses among the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities have on-campus programs to encourage alternative transportation methods.

Slippery Rock University Edinboro UniversityMansfield University and West Chester University have programs designed to reduce the number of cars on campus and increase the use of bicycles.

Slippery Rock has a “Green Bike Initiative” with a mission to promote a “healthy lifestyle through cycling while minimizing petroleum-based transportation and parking problems within the Slipper Rock community,” according to the SRU website. The GBI provides free bikes to those interested in biking to campus, class or work.

Slippery Rock University
1 Morrow Way 
Slippery Rock, Pa. 16057
Phone: (724) 738-9000
Web: www.sru.edu

Edinboro University offers a similar “Green Bike Program.” The program was established to “assist people in getting across campus in an environmentally friendly manner,” and students may ride the bikes anywhere on campus for free, according to the Edinboro website.

Edinboro University
260 Waterford St.
Edinboro, Pa. 16412
Phone: (814) 732-2000
Web: www.edinboro.edu

Mansfield University offers students 24 mountain bikes and three single-speed cruisers, which are available for both one-day rentals and long-term rentals, according to the Mansfield website.

Mansfield University
71 South Academy St.
Mansfield, Pa. 16933
Phone: (570) 662-4000
Web: www.mansfield.edu

West Chester University is working with Borough Leaders United for Emission Reduction subcommittee in West Chester borough to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by replacing car traffic with bicyclists or pedestrians. The university works with area businesses and clubs to encourage biking as a means of transportation, according to the WCU website. The university offers discounts for bicycles for those participating in the WCU Bicycle Use Pledge Program, a voluntary and self-regulated initiative.

West Chester University
700 South High St.
West Chester, PA 19383
Phone: (610) 436-1000
Web: http://www.wcupa.edu


Sidebar: For more information

Having a sustainable campus and attaining “bike-friendly university” status are great ways “to promote an active, sustainable and more livable college campus,” according to the League of American Bicyclists.

The LAB was founded as the League of American Wheelmen in 1880. It works to “promote bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation and work through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America,” according to the LBA website.

A bike-friendly university improves the connectivity of a campus, reduces its carbon footprint and congestion, lowers health-care and parking costs, leads to happier and healthier students and staff, enhances campus quality of life, and becomes a model for the rest of the country, according to LAB.

Universities can apply for BFU status. Top-ranked bicycling colleges and universities incorporate the “Five Es”: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation. BFU designation “serves as a positive indication for current and prospective students, as well as faculty and staff.” The BFU scorecard is used to assess the five categories.

League of American Bicyclists
1612 K St.
NW, Suite 510
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 822-1333
Web: bikeleague@bikeleague.org

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