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BFU Showdown: Big West Conference Dominates!

I love football. And, as a University of Florida alum, I’m always happy to see the SEC setting the standard this time of year. But, inspired by a recent USA Today cover story, I took a timeout from the bowl game action and did a quick analysis of where the League’s Bicycle Friendly Universities stack up by conference. It’s not a headline you’re likely to see in the Sports section but, when it comes to bike-friendliness, the Big West dominates.

Click the link for my full 2012 BFU Conference Competition scorecard.

While the Big Ten conference still leads in total number of awarded schools at eight, the conference is also the standout in quality, with four California universities at the Silver or Gold award level: UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara (Gold), UC Irvine and CSU Long Beach (Silver). The University of California at Davis has been prioritizing bicycling and walking since the 1960s (documented in 1966 by Ansel Adams). For example, on the core of the UC Davis campus is closed to auto traffic, leaving beautifully open boulevards for people bicycling and walking to class. When I visited the university a few years back, I was absolutely blown away by the great bicycling culture and accommodations, like bicycle roundabouts filled with people daily. A survey conducted by the university showed that 39% of those traveling to campus on an average weekday do so by bike (45% of students and 22% of faculty and staff).

UC Davis in action. Photo credit: UC Davis

Like UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara has been working hard at this since the 1960s and has built a great campus for getting around by bike and foot (and skateboard!). UCSB is said to have the highest percentage of human-powered commuters of any suburban national university in the U.S. Policies like the Parking Permit Ban, for those living within two miles of campus, the excellent cycling network and convenient bike parking make going by bike on campus the easiest option.

UC Santa Barbara – picking up recycling by bicycle. Photo: UCSB

It has to also be noted that the PAC-12 is a close second with the only Platinum-level BFU, Stanford, and six other universities across the West. Stanford is a standout for its biking network, educational outreach and promotion of cycling on campus for students, faculty and staff. The return on investment is clear with the university’s bike commuter data showing 22% of people bike commuting and the U.S.  Census Bureau’s American Community Survey showing a five-year average bike commuter rate of 40% between 2005-2010. Impressive stuff!

And it all goes to show what college football has proved for decades: Investment pays off. As the USA Today story explained, the SEC’s domination on the green is no surprise: “(It’s) the commitment they’ve made, financial support-wise, to be one of the best, if not the best,” said coach Chris Ault, whose Nevada team plays in the Mountain West. “To the Southern teams, football is just a different animal than most places in the country. Not that it isn’t important in all other places, but down there it truly is a way of life.”

It’s great to see universities across the country stepping up and making cycling a way of life, too! Read more about the BFU program here.


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