By Jonathan McVerry, Penn State
UNIVERSITY PARK — The League of American Bicyclists recognized Penn State University Park as a bronze level Bicycle Friendly University. The distinction honors the University’s commitment to bicycling and initiatives that promote a safe and convenient biking environment on campus.
Receiving the designation involved an extensive evaluation process. It included reviewing an application, studying the biking infrastructure of campus and consulting with local cyclists. The program, which is in its 10th year, also collects data on activities within five areas: engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation.
“Our goal is to provide viable alternative transportation options for students, faculty, staff and visitors,” saidTransportation Services Director Teresa Davis. “The Bicycle Friendly Recognition not only recognizes our efforts to date, but also provides recommendations to assist us in planning our next steps.”
The bronze level is valid for four years. Penn State will not only continue its bicycle-friendly initiatives during that time but also expand them in order to achieve a higher level in 2016.
“This year, Trish Meeks, who is the Centre Region planner, led the effort to obtain the Bicycle Friendly Community designation for the Centre Region,” Davis said. “Trish helped immensely with the University’s application process. We will continue to work together as we plan next steps to enhance our joined bicycle network. I believe that the University’s partnership with our regional counterparts is a win-win for everyone.”
Ernie Lehman, president of the Penn State Bicycle Club, said he is excited about the recognition and hopes that it encourages students to hop on their bikes.
“University Park is pretty nice,” he said. “It’s the perfect size for bikers. It’s too small to have a car and too big to walk everywhere. A bicycle is the perfect medium.”
Lehman, a senior majoring in Film and Marketing, grew up around bicycles. His family owns a bike shop in northeast Ohio. He rides to class every day and gets out on the open road a few times a week. He said Happy Valley is one of the best places he’s ever ridden. So, it’s only natural that Penn State would be a prime spot for bikers like him.
“It’s a beautiful campus in a beautiful area. There are a lot of options,” he said. “You can go along the valley and it’s pretty flat, or you can go across it and you got the climbing.”
The Bicycle Friendly University status is a result of Penn State’s Bicycle Master Plan, an initiative that Transportation Services implemented four years ago. The plan included widening streets, expanding bike access on campus and offering bicycle registration online. Adding climbing lanes and building covered bike parking were also a part of the plan.
Alissa Thompson, a senior majoring in Kinesiology, said University Park is more “aware of bikes” compared to where she grew up. She added that she feels safer and more comfortable riding locally, and that goes a long way for students like her.
“Penn State is a well known school of 40,000 students,” she said. “If the University is encouraging it, the students can implement that into their lives. If we buy into the message here, then other schools will promote biking and incorporate it into their missions as well.”
An event to celebrate Penn State’s Bicycle Friendly University status is being planned for the spring semester. With the designation, Penn State becomes one of only 44 Bicycle Friendly Universities in the country.
For more information on biking on campus and other alternative transportation, visit the Transportation Services Web site.