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Platinum all the Way: Stanford University

In the latest round of Bicycle Friendly University awards announced this week, several top-performing schools rose to Platinum — the highest designation in the BFU program. Since the program began, only one university has been Platinum from the start: Stanford University. In this post, Ariadne Delon Scott shares how Stanford has stayed at the top of the podium — and, not only renewed its designation, but has continued to raise the bar on bicycle-friendliness. (Photo below by Steve Castillo, courtesy of Stanford University)

When we were named the first and only Platinum Bicycle Friendly University in 2011, our director at the time said: “We view this less as the finishing point of our efforts than as the new starting line. The many departments that contribute to Stanford’s overall bicycle program intend to make even greater progress in the years ahead to create a safer and more sustainable environment for our community through improvements for bicyclists and all road users.”

When the League informed us in October that our program is the first BFU to renew its Platinum designation for four more years, we were thrilled to know we had achieved what we set out to do. As we anticipated in 2011, the renewal of Stanford’s Platinum honor can be attributed to strong campus partnerships, including the Department of Public Safety, Campus Planning, and the Medical Center, to name just a few. These partnerships coupled with support and investment from university leadership, we are making Stanford an even safer and more enjoyable place to bike.

Five ‘E’s + Two ‘E’s = Second Platinum

How did we retain our Platinum designation for the second consecutive time? We expanded on the traditional five ‘E’s of any successful bicycle program (Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation) and added two more: Environment and Engagement.

Engineering

Removed 100 parking spaces and added a mile of new bikes lanes: Out of 118 parking spaces, 100 spaces were removed in 2014 and replaced with new bike lanes on Santa Teresa Street from Campus Drive to Lomita Drive. Santa Teresa Street is a major east–west bikeway for students traveling between student residences and the core campus.

Construction of the Stanford Perimeter Trail, a 3.4 mile multi-use trail, includes improvements for bicyclists. The trail provides an important connection to Palo Alto and County trails, local parks, schools and other destinations. Related improvements along Stanford Avenue in 2015 include bike lanes on both sides of the road, a section of green bike lanes to increase safety in conflict areas and formalized back-in angled parking, which provides improved visibility for both motorists and bicyclists when vehicles enter and exit parking spaces.

Installed three new roundabouts on campus: The first roundabout at Campus Drive and Escondido Road opened in fall 2014. Two more roundabouts were completed in fall 2015 — Campus Drive at Bowdoin and Campus Drive at Santa Teresa — with more planned for 2016. The roundabouts serve as the most efficient means for vehicle circulation and provide a sensible solution for pedestrians and bicyclists at campus intersections.

Environment

Expanded department bike share programs: Twenty-one Stanford departments have Department Bike Share programs, offering a total of more than 130 bikes for staff use. The Stanford Bike Safety policy is incorporated in the “How to Start a Department Bike Share Program Guide,” which was produced in 2013 in partnership with Sustainable Stanford. This guide helps departments initiate their own programs to promote riding a bike for short, on-campus trips, wearing a helmet on every ride and following the rules of the road.

Education

Partnered with others to improve biking at Stanford: In partnership with Stanford Public Safety, our educational outreach is robust. In 2008, Public Safety initiated a free bike safety class that also serves as a Bike Safety & Bike Citation Diversion Class. To date, more than 6,000 cyclists have attended the class, which is offered as an alternative to paying a bike citation fine. The class is offered for free to the entire Stanford community to encourage safe riding. In addition, P&TS does extensive outreach targeting new students on campus through New Student Orientation events and communications. The Bicycle Program also shares bike resources and transportation options in advance of students’ arrival through websites and Approaching Stanford.

Encouragement

Increased participation in Bike to Work Day: Since 2010, Stanford has increased participation in Bike to Work Day by 39 percent. In 2015, more than 2,000 members of the Stanford community commuted by bicycle, and 279 others came to campus and other Stanford locations on foot. The 807 bicycle commuters who reported their mileage logged a total of 6,386 miles and averaged 8 miles per trip. By biking instead of driving, these participants eliminated 5,786 pounds of CO2 emissions. In 2015, Stanford co-hosted 14 energizer stations in partnership with Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital), Stanford Children’s Health (formerly Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital) and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. More than 73 volunteers helped staff Stanford energizer stations.

Encouraged bike safety by featuring Stanford’s bike superhero: Stanford created its own personal goodwill bike ambassador: Sprocket Man. Our helmeted superhero promotes safe riding and helmet use by making surprise visits to bike safety events in dorms and White Plaza, and by appearing at Bike Night events for Stanford Athletics.

Enforcement

More than 6,000 cyclists have attended the Bike Safety & Bike Citation Diversion Class, which is offered as an alternative to paying a bike citation fine.

Developed campaign to promote safety for all road users during construction: Stanford Project Management’s HeadsUp campaign was created to inform the campus community about construction activity and to provide strategies for navigating safely, whether by foot or on wheels. The campaign communicates through a website, bulletins and signage the current and anticipated construction projects around campus and suggested detour routes. Messages include sharing the road, being alert at all times, and reminding bicyclists to follow the rules of road. The communication is produced by Stanford University Land, Buildings and Real Estate and includes projects managed by the Department of Project Management, Department of Sustainability and Energy Management, Real Estate, and Buildings & Grounds Maintenance with support from Stanford Department of Public Safety. 

Engagement

Stanford hosted the first Corporate Bike Forum at Stanford’s Knight Management Center in partnership with Bikes Make Life Better in April 2015. The event drew more than 30 leading Silicon Valley businesses to discuss challenges they face with their bicycle programs and share best practices. The keynote speaker was Professor Robert I. Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering and a Professor of Organizational Behavior (by courtesy) at Stanford, who co-authored the book Scaling Up Excellence. The book featured the class project: scaling up helmet use on campus. Stanford’s bicycle program provided resources for the class.

Partnered on the Silicon Valley Bike Summit with Stanford Healthcare, Stanford Trauma and the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition in 2015. This gathering of active transportation leaders was an innovative community-building event.

Evaluation

Our commitment to better biking have led to some impressive results.

  • Daily cyclists on campus: 13,000
  • Increase in secure bike parking on campus since 2011: 50%  
  • Secure bike parking on campus now totals 440 spaces (331 bike lockers and 109 bike cage spaces).
  • Percentage of Stanford bicycle commuters (mode split):
    • Commute Club members: 33%
    • University commuters: 17%
    • Increase in bicycle helmet use for undergraduate students from 2012 to 2015: 18%

Moving forward

As the campus grows and expands, it is crucial to address circulation for all modes of transportation—particularly biking.

Looking to the future, Stanford is committed to expanding and enriching its programs, infrastructure, and outreach. As the campus grows and expands, it is crucial to address circulation for all modes of transportation—particularly biking. Projects in 2016 include a Transportation Master Plan and hosting a League Cycling Instructor (LCI) training at Stanford to expand the pool of qualified staff who can teach best riding practices and skills to our growing community of bicyclists.

Our commitment to expanding and improving our bicycle program continues, because we know that when colleges and universities invest in bicycling, great things happen: more people ride, we decrease our carbon footprint, reduce health care costs, connect to community and tip the culture towards more sustainable and safe commute options.

We salute the League for investing in the Bicycle Friendly America programs, and we thank them for an award that is inspiring meaningful transformation in bicycle programs in our communities and across the nation.

Ariadne Delon Scott is the Bicycle Program Coordinator for Stanford University Parking & Transportation Services. Learn more at bike.stanford.edu.