Utah State University: Bicycle Friendly in the Beehive State
Cute puppies. Alleycats. Campouts. You have arrived at Utah State University at the base of the Bear River Mountains. It’s home to Aggie Blue Bikes, the campus bike shop where the only goal is to get more people on more bikes, more often. The rotating cast of shop pups doesn’t hurt to get even the most novice riders through the door. Over 350 three-month check-outs and 1,200 toolboard uses per year help accomplish the mission. Yet, free bike rentals and maintenance instruction are just one dimension of the work. The versatility of bicycles has provided an impetus for local groups to promote bicycles as for fun, health, and transportation. They play an important role in the university’s goal of contributing to a high quality of life for present and future Aggies.
The Aggie Blue Bikes mechanics maintain the shop’s 350 bicycles and help students learn to maintain their own bicycles.
Fun starts almost anywhere in Logan. Since four nearby canyons provide endless singletrack opportunities, almost every driveway can be a trailhead. The trails are so close that GPS on our new dockless bikeshare shows even three-speed bicycles have made it up the canyons. Bikes aren’t just in the mountains. They are the focus of community events including, Little Red Riding Hood, one of the largest all-women’s bike rides; the start-line of Lotoja, the longest one-day USAC-sanctioned bicycle race; and several other fun and competitive rides. Over 100 cyclists turn out for USU’s biannual bike to breakfasts, the best free, hot, local breakfast around. Even more people on foot and bikes celebrate active transportation during USU’s Open Streets Festival. At the event, USU awards the winners of the university’s bike challenge and historically has celebrated winning the school division of the National Bike Challenge.
City of Logan residents and Utah State University take new dockless bikeshare on an inaugural ride in April 2018.
Bicycles are fun — excruciating and euphoric at times. In a mountain valley that suffers from inversions where stagnant air becomes trapped below the mountains, however, bicycles are also one of the best ways to keep our air clean. Combined with a fare-free bus system and wide roads, bicycles are a valuable mode of transportation. They not only improve physical fitness through exercise, but they literally help us all breathe freer. In addition to Aggie Blue Bikes services, USU also offers a smattering of amenities for cyclists including bike loans for an entire year, hot showers, lockers, and emergency rides home as part of the Commuter Club program that will continue to grow in members. A collaboration with the university’s wellness program means employees can substitute bike miles for the steps requirement in USU Be Well Rewards to earn incentives.
Engineering and education are especially important to make it easier for people to choose clean transportation. The city and university undertook transportation plans simultaneously in 2015, so future bike infrastructure will be continuous. Both Utah State University and the City of Logan received Bike Friendly Silver status in 2017. Beyond Bicycle Friendly status, county and university employees work with local bike shops and health professionals to educate the community about bike safety, fit, maintenance, and trails of all sorts. Winterize your wheels classes arm students with knowledge and gear to take their bicycles through all four seasons. Bike ‘n’ Dine socials burn calories between feasting at local eateries. All the while, participants are on a guided ride through local roads and multi-use trails. Education and food are good companions.
Students ride to camp at Maple Grove Hot Springs on an outing hosted by Aggie Blue Bikes.
Just thinking about bicycles makes us optimistic, but it’s not all puppies and sunshine. Snow fell outright during Bike to Work Week (yes, in May). The city and university enforce bike law very little. Along with low public awareness, several bicycle-vehicle collisions occurred this spring. There’s always more work to do, but the bikes are rolling in the right direction. A campus that previously had one bike lane, now has two bike boulevards coming. Bike lanes replaced sharrows on the north side of campus and are coming to the main thoroughfare. New building projects always include bike parking, often covered. The first bike lockers came with the new recreation center. The university is also considering new signage and sidewalk appliques to direct both cyclists and motorists. These changes are more than cosmetic. We are lucky our Valley has so many advocates committed to a healthier community. Working together, we are facilitating an even better quality of life for our community, which will require healthy people, efficient buildings, renewable energy, and importantly, some seriously fun, clean transportation.
Alexi Lamm became USU’s first sustainability coordinator in 2012. She loved bicycles as a kid and hated riding for six months in grad school before discovering bike maintenance. Now, she rides year-round everywhere.
Meg McCarthy is Aggie Blue Bikes’ adventurous new coordinator, starting in summer of 2017. Road, mountain, touring or commuting: any sort of ride she is in for. The next shop dog will surely be hers, she just has to find the perfect basket and pooch to ride in it.