UWL is one of only five state campuses with the honor
La Crosse, Wis. – A national organization has recognized UW-La Crosse for its efforts in becoming a more bicycle friendly campus.
The League of American Bicyclists has recognized UWL with a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly University (BFUSM) award. With the announcement of 49 new and renewing BFUs, UWL joins a cutting-edge group of 127 U.S. campuses in 42 states and Washington, D.C., promoting bicycling.
History Associate Professor and bike advocate James Longhurst prepared the university’s proposal, with the support of 15 campus community members, a UW-L Foundation grant and nearly 100 student volunteers. He was pleasantly surprised by the bronze ranking, rather than the honorable mention universities usually receive as their first.
“When I first began completing the application in spring 2014, I investigated the requirements and thought UWL didn’t have the resources and programs to make the cut,” says Longhurst. “I thought we could start at ‘honorable mention,’ get some feedback and move up. But in the last year, a lot of people on campus completed many different bike projects.”
Some of those projects included: campus bike ambassadors who teach safety, a “Bait Bike” program to help police curb bike thefts, bike repair stands installed on campus, and a proposed bike and pedestrian master plan. “All these different projects, and more, coming together in the last year really helped,” Longhurst notes.
The author of “Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road,” a book on biking and transportation issues, Longhurst promoted his work on a bike tour from Seattle to Delaware this past summer. He says there’s a transportation revolution happening in North America.
Longhurst notes changes in the number of bike lanes, bike-share programs, a new generation that wants transit and pedestrian-friendly cities, and less money for new roads, road repair and auto parking. “Keeping up with these changes means not only keeping what UWL has had in the past,” he explains, “but, being aware of new development in campus design and urban planning across the state and nationwide.”
Receiving the BFU designation will impact related issues, says Longhurst. “Getting this sort of recognition helps the campus improve safety, health and sustainability even as resources and funding become tighter,” he says.
Longhurst says up to 15 bikes can fit in a space for one parked car. He says increased bicycle use can ease parking demand on campus and in nearby neighborhoods. “Active transportation keeps faculty, staff and students healthy and reduces health insurance costs,” he explains. “A mix of transportation alternatives reduces peak-hour congestion, choke points, fuel use and pollution. Encouraging walking, biking and transit keeps costs and space demands under control, and frees up roads and parking for those who need to keep using their cars for commuting.”
Only four Wisconsin colleges and universities had previously been recognized by the program: UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Eau Claire and Carroll University.
Longhurst says with BFU recognition, the League of American Bicyclists will provide feedback on ways UWL can improve. He anticipates more safety education, bike lanes, signs, bike parking, pedestrian crosswalks and targeted enforcement.
“With any luck next time we apply, we can move up to at least ‘silver’ status,” he says.