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Building up to Bronze: University of Tulsa
Last week, the League released its latest round up Bicycle Friendly University awards. The University of Tulsa was among the record-breaking class of applicants and achieved a Bronze designation. In this blog, Lauren Wagner explores how the past 10 years have set the stage for TU to become a BFU, including the creation of the TU Rider Network.
Bicycling as a transportation solution
The University of Tulsa campus has evolved significantly over the past decade, adding hundreds of residential units and shifting parking to its perimeter. Historically, most students had commuted to TU and many of them drove from class to class, but in 2006 TU implemented a system of assigned lots. Students were concerned about the increased time it took to walk between classes and asked the university’s administration for a solution.
In fall 2006, TU President Steadman Upham launched the Yellow Bike program with an initial fleet of 200 bikes. Students, faculty and staff rent a Yellow Bike, helmet and lock free of charge for one semester at a time. Today, the Yellow Bike fleet includes more than 500 bikes, and demand often exceeds supply. The highly visible heavy-duty single-speed Yellow Bikes have become an important part of TU campus culture (pictured right).
In 2007, TU worked with the City of Tulsa to implement major cycling improvements on South Delaware Avenue, an arterial street that bisects campus. Lanes were reduced from four to two, the speed limit was decreased to 25 miles per hour, and bike lanes were added.
Hurricane Bike Shop
The Hurricane Bike Shop opened in 2008 to support Yellow Bike riders. TU’s director of physical plant and a group of student workers manage the bike fleet from this shop where students, faculty and staff receive assistance with basic bike maintenance and repairs.
MADE at TU
Make a Difference Engineering (MADE at TU) is a longstanding program in the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, providing students with mentorship and resources to design and construct mobility aids and other adaptive devices for Tulsa-area residents with physical and developmental disabilities. Many of these devices are pedal-powered. In spring 2015, students delivered their latest project, a custom two-seat tricycle, to a local man with a developmental disability. The tricycle allows him and his family to enjoy riding together. Work has begun on another version to accommodate four cyclists and replace golf carts on campus.
MADE at TU tricycle
Officers have more frequent and effective interaction with students, faculty and staff when patrolling on bikes
Campus Security Bike Patrol
More than 70% of TU’s campus security officers are qualified for bike patrol and can reach remote areas of campus more quickly on bikes than in vehicles or on foot. Officers report they have more frequent and effective interaction with students, faculty and staff when patrolling on bikes.
Bicycle Friendly University
In 2014, the League's Bicycle Friendly University program encouraged TU to expand its cycling presence campuswide and in the community. TU applied for BFU status and received an honorable mention. Since then, a handful of dedicated faculty and staff has stepped forward to lead students and employees in the new TU Rider Network (TURN).
TU Rider Network
The mission of TURN is to connect students, faculty and staff with Tulsa’s cycling community to promote a healthier, more environmentally friendly world. TURN provides information on safe cycling practices, local group rides, cycling events and other member activities through a brochure, electronic newsletter and the TU website.
TURN has established the Bike Buddies program to connect new bike commuters with experienced riders, and the group facilitated a summer Bike to Work Challenge in 2015. TURN partnered with the TU Student Association and Physical Plant to sponsor the installation of three new bicycle maintenance stations on campus.
In September, TURN and the TU Oxley College of Health Sciences sponsored a commuter race to demonstrate alternative ways of traveling between TU’s main campus and its downtown facility. The college’s dean raced a bicycle against a shuttle bus and car.
In October, TU conducted its first bicycle and pedestrian count. Future counts will be performed every October and April to track trends in cycling activity on and near campus.
To Silver and Beyond
This fall, TU’s Yellow Bike program received the 2015 Bellmon Quality of Life Award. TU is delighted that the Yellow Bike program, the foundation of the university’s bicycle-friendly culture, is recognized as a contributor to the quality of life in the Tulsa community and hopes that the university’s growing commitment to cycling supports an active lifestyle and more sustainable world. TU is inspired by its official recognition as a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly University, and its cycling advocates anticipate additional program expansion and higher Bicycle Friendly University levels in the future.
Lauren Wagner is the manager of the TU Rider Network at the University of Tulsa.