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Top of the Class: Colorado State 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. We asked them to share some of their notable developments and top lessons learned in getting more students and faculty on bikes. In this post, Aaron Fodge sheds light on how Colorado State University made the leap from Silver to Platinum (leaping over Gold) in just four years.
It was Friday afternoon, October 23, around 2:15 p.m. My colleague and I had just finished an impromptu conversation about upcoming projects to stripe new bike routes on campus when it occurred to me I should let her know that we could be hearing from the League that afternoon about our Bicycle Friendly University application. She had helped edit the application and was anxious to hear the findings.
In my head, I performed a mental ping-pong match since our Campus Bicycle Advisory Committee completed our application in August. We had put in six months of sub-committee work reflecting on our accomplishments and challenges, while debating how to answer questions. I marveled at the commitment and culture of this campus to improve upon our Silver 2011 rating long before I arrived here on campus. I felt we had achieved Platinum, yet I found myself repeating across campus, “…even if we get Gold, it’s remarkable what you all have achieved.”
The League emailed at 2:32 p.m. We were Platinum.
Oh, the well-worn tred of analogies in the bike world. I could have used gears, cogs, brake cables, ball bearings… I’ve chosen “spokes.” We’re Platinum because of our campus-wide spokes: people from across the university who embrace bicycle safety, education, infrastructure, and culture. These spokes keep the wheels of our bike rolling smooth and forward. These departments built on our 2011 BFU Silver rating:
- Associated Students of CSU
- Facilities: Architecture / Landscape Architecture, Ground, Planning
- Health Center
- Health and Exercise Science
- Housing and Dining Services
- Off-Campus Life
- Orientation Programs
- Parking and Transportation
- Recreation Center
- Surplus Properties
Colorado State University is Platinum because we’ve won the time commitment of staff and students to make this campus more welcoming to our bicycle commuters. Their efforts have influenced the University’s decision to dedicate parking revenue to fund bicycle programming and a transportation team.
The League provides guidance through the Bicycle Friendly University process; it’s the university’s responsibility to prioritize bicycling through a commitment of its creative people. Our spokes are proud of our achievement and ready for the League’s guidance for how to get better.
I can’t stress enough the importance of a tight relationship with your host city when striving to become a Bicycle Friendly University.
Our university is an hour north of Denver in Fort Collins, Colo. A land-grant university, CSU and Fort Collins grew up together since our inception in 1870, which makes our partnership strong and long-standing. I can’t stress enough the importance of a tight relationship with your host city when striving to become a Bicycle Friendly University.
For years, CSU has been perceived as a bicycle barrier to the greater Fort Collins community, a city in love with bicycling. Campus was a place to bike around, not through. Our Silver designation set the course for change, and in 2013, the city and university jointly scoped bicycle master plans.
This partnership aligned infrastructure priorities related to the campus and surrounding neighborhoods while providing logical collaborative funding opportunities. It has since led to low stress bike corridors through campus, a bike share business plan, more than $500,000 in grant funding, and an adopted wayfinding package for campus.
I sometimes feel I should have an office at the City given the number of meetings and planning efforts we share. The City embraces our participation and I believe much of our Platinum designation is the result of this strong collaboration. The impact of the university on bicycle culture in Fort Collins is powerful, I think, because we are the largest employer and educator in Northern Colorado. Like CSU, other universities can collaborate with their host community to build bicycle amenities that make sense based on where students and employees live (we provide GIS layers of their residences in project boundaries).
Silver to Platinum
At CSU, we don’t debate “are people biking?” We debate “how can we make their biking experience better?” We talk bicycle everywhere, every day.
So, how did we make the leap from Silver to Platinum (leaping over Gold) in four years? The League’s previous application feedback set our “spokes” in motion, and collaboration, with our host community. The grassroots efforts of the Campus Bicycle Advisory Committee elevated the integration of bicycling in conversations across campus. At CSU, we don’t debate “are people biking?” We debate “how can we make their biking experience better?” We talk bicycle everywhere, every day.
Data: CSU is a research institution. We understand the value of data to support our theories and justify our investments. We are passionate about bicycle data from permanently installed bicycle counters to rack use counts to annual mode split surveys. This data has increased investment in bicycle infrastructure while helping with grant awards. Any university looking to elevate its bike friendliness should embrace the collection of data to support its programs and investments.
Corridor Preservation: Land is precious. Preserving land for bicycle trails close to campus buildings is likely an opportunity cost. Could a building expand? Could we put in vehicle parking? Thanks to the commitment of Campus Bicycle Advisory Committee, the President’s Sustainability Committee, and our campus planners, we have preserved bicycle corridors, decommissioned roads for new trails, and created landscaped bicycle promenades to separate bicycles and pedestrians. There was a time when our architects cringed trying to incorporate bicycle racks into their strict visual guidelines. Now, bike racks are a reality designed with permeable surfaces, adjacent rain gardens, maintenance stands, and their cousin, the longboard rack.
Enforcement: Even in Fort Collins, a Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community, you won’t find a more dense collection of daily bicycle commuters than on the CSU campus. As a Bicycle Friendly University, we want to see this trend of ridership growth continue. We literally have bike congestion 10 minutes before the hour during the academic year. Any hope of encouraging the interested, but concerned individual to try bicycle commuting or welcoming the community to enjoy our campus is reliant on a predictable and safe experience. It may not be the most popular strategy, yet we believe our success is predicated on our BEEP — Bicycle Education and Enforcement Program: sworn and student officers who are empowered to write administrative tickets for bike violations.
Culture: When an incoming student steps onto campus, it is abundantly clear from the first day that Fort Collins and CSU are synonymous with the bicycle. It’s the way you navigate campus and explore the City. Even before move-in day, we discuss with the 4,500 students and 2,500 parents how the bicycle replaces the personal vehicle on this campus. After move-in, we reinforce safety with the most powerful attractant for the average college student: free food. We give them a breakfast burrito in return for them demonstrating proper hand signals during the September Bike to Breakfast events. The Spoke, a bicycle maintenance room (pictured below), trains students to take pride in their bicycle through guided maintenance.
Culture building never ends…
CSU will not rest now that we’ve been designated Platinum. The gratification of our efforts now comes with a positive “burden” to innovate and support the mission of the League. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 970-491-2823 to share your experiences. We have much to do — and more to learn from our peers across the country.
Aaron Fodge is the Alternative Transportation Manager at Colorado State University. Hired in 2013, his position and programmatic budget are the result of the University’s 2011 Silver Bike Friendly University application findings from the League and an insistent set of “spokes” advocating for them.