Well, exciting news! The University of Texas at Dallas has officially submitted our Bicycle Friendly University application to the League of American Bicyclists. I thought it’d be fun to write a blog post about this cycling journey- from the beginning to where we are now.
What is Bicycle Friendly University?
At the start of every bicycling trip, one must determine where they’re headed. In February, we knew we wanted to improve bicycling infrastructure at UTD. We also knew we wanted an outside opinion of what areas were most in need of improvement. Lastly, we wanted some sort of certification that university departments could collaborate for. With that criteria in mind, the answer came to us in the form of the League of American Bicyclist’s Bicycle Friendly University designations. Based on the data that universities submit, they can either earn a Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Honorable Mention status.
The questions asked on the application revolve around 4 aspects of campus bicycling programs, the “4 E’s:” Engineering, Education, Encouragement, and Evaluation & Planning. It is also important to note the presence of a 5th E throughout the application: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. This E was introduced by the League of American Bicyclists in an effort to ensure campuses are making bicycling programs accessible for all.
The first stop on our bicycling trek was collecting the data necessary for the application. This was no easy feat; after transferring the application questions into a spreadsheet, we had 280+ data points to answer. These questions ranged from “How many bicycles can be accommodated by the bike parking at your university?” to “Do you send staff to bicycle-specific conferences and training?”
Looking at all of the questions, we knew the Office of Sustainability alone could not answer them all. So, that’s when we brought in other leaders across campus. With the help of Parking & Transportation, University Housing, University Recreation, and the UTD Police Department, we were able to answer the wide range of questions asked.
Looking for Improvement
Even without receiving feedback from the League of American Bicyclists, the process of filling out the application alone gave us so many ideas about how to improve bicycling infrastructure on campus. We hoped that by improving, we may be able to answer “yes” to some of those questions in the future.
I was able to identify a few actionable items for how to improve bicycling. The first was the implementation of Share the Road signs across campus. As the BFU application describes, these signs can promote bicycle safety and prevent multimodal transportation conflict across campus. First, I identified locations across campus that I thought could benefit from such a sign. Then, I worked on a design. I am by no means artistic, but we were hoping to get something encouraging that would promote campus spirit. After all, there’s some pretty incredible signs on campus that we had to look up to. Now, we’re currently still in the process of finalizing a design to put in place on campus roads.
The second item we were able to improve upon addressed the application question: “Does your university have an education/awareness campaign for bicyclists and pedestrians on off-street pathways and sidewalks?” When thinking about what this education/awareness campaign could look like, the Office of Sustainability pretty much ran with it. That is when our campus “Well-Being Routes” were born. We wanted to find a way to encourage lower traffic areas of campus, highlight naturally beautiful areas, and promote campus well-being. We now have a working draft of 10+ well-being routes on campus, which provide an alternative route to arrive at destinations while offering “well-being tips” to students who may be taking them. Keep an eye out for more educational content about these Well-Being Routes coming soon!
Although it felt like we put a lot of work into the application, it also felt like the application deadline had arrived before we knew it. Looking back at the answers we had collected and the action projects we had initiated gave me plenty of areas to highlight on our application. If you haven’t gotten a chance to learn about all the great services we offer, I’d suggest you take a look at the Bicycling Page from Auxiliary Services. There’s so many great resources there and it makes me proud to be a part of this university!
Stay tuned for results from our Bicycle Friendly University application coming soon- and be sure to get on a bike if you’re able! Riding across campus on my bicycle was certainly the highlight for me of this entire application process.
Written by Paulina Hruskoci