Proposed bike plan solicits student input

| Staff Reporter
Courtesy of Arcturis

A map showing the proposed master plan for the bike routes.

Bikes whizzing by on campus may be a thing of the past. A proposed plan seeks to end congestion on main campus and allow bicyclists and pedestrians to coexist more peacefully.

According to Sarah Stanton, project coordinator for the Department of Facilities Planning and Management, the University has been talking to Great Rivers Greenway (GRG), a group dedicated to “developing a Bicycle Master Plan for the St. Louis region,” since 2005 about implementing a bicycle policy. GRG has created plans extending from Skinker along Forsyth to Brown Hall and north from the Ackert Walkway to the Loop. The University has, according to Stanton, only recently made significant progress in planning the infrastructure and policy for the plan.

“We thought it was important to come up with a policy that would develop both a comprehensive and a consistent strategy relative to bicycles on campus,” Stanton said.

If the policy is implemented, Forsyth will be modified from its current format to include two separate pathways­—one for pedestrians and a wider path for bicyclists.

The plan calls for a path around the perimeter of campus and for bicycle nodes, which, according to Stanton, will be locations dedicated not only to convenient bicycle parking but also to establishing a means of interaction among students.

Executive Vice Chancellor for Administration Henry Webber stressed that the goal for this plan is to promote environmental sustainability.

“One of our strategies is to reduce greenhouse gases by promoting means of transportation other than driving,” Webber said. “Promoting bicycling is a component of that.”

Webber also hopes that the plan can promote safety on campus and allow for a less congested community.

“The plan over time is to separate walkers, cars and bicyclists to make travel safer,” Webber said.

Student participation has been encouraged throughout the process. There is currently a focus group consisting of students, administrators involved in the planning process and student groups directly or indirectly affected by bicycles on campus.

Freshman Student Union Senate Speaker Mamatha Challa has worked with the Department of Facilities Planning and Management in adjusting the plan to create compromises between the administration and students in the plan. She had originally worked on a plan in the Senate to implement a bicycle-sharing system on campus. When she heard about the administration’s bicycle plan, she helped with the creation of the focus group, in order to make the process as open to students as possible.

“The purpose of this focus group is more than input,” Challa said. “We want students who will give constructive criticism.”

Most of the criticism for the plan has centered around the pedestrian core of campus. The core stretches from Seigle to Brookings and covers most of the campus between Forsyth and the North Side. According to Stanton, the core is intended to improve efficiency and reduce congestion on main campus.

“We want to make the perimeter routes more efficient options for students to get from point A to point B instead of having to go around pedestrians in the main core,” Stanton said.

“Even though I am concerned as a pedestrian about being run over, I am also concerned about bicyclists being inconvenienced,” Challa said. “Even though the safety concern makes sense, I do not think it makes sense to implement a core.” According to Stanton, the main pushback from students about the core is travel time between classes.

“That’s where the design of these nodes becomes critical,” Stanton said. “The goal is not to make their time less effective. It’s possible that they can travel around the core, park their bicycle and go to class.”

Challa is thus far pleased with the cooperation between students and the administration on this issue, as compared to the tobacco ban, a ban that she believes the administration approved while failing to obtain student input.

“This is not a closed process,” Challa said. “We are working collaboratively with the administration to make sure that the students are properly represented.”

Stanton said that the plan will be a phased process. The goal is to implement the path along Forsyth, as well as the temporary path through campus connecting the Forsyth path and the GRG path to Delmar, this summer. Nodes and additional parts of the perimeter route are planned for the second year, while the third year will consist of reviewing the design and adding the remaining nodes.

Plans and maps are currently conceptual and await more student input, according to Stanton. She and Challa both hope that a compromise can be reached to create the best possible bicycle plan for students. Students interested in becoming involved in the focus groups for implementing the plans can e-mail Challa or any other students, groups or administrators participating in the focus group.