UA Wants More Bike Commuters, Fewer Drivers

By Hillary Hollis
The Razorback Reporter
The UA Office of Sustainability is working to improve bicycle friendliness on campus.
Bicycle permits and registration are free at the UA parking department in an effort to encourage cycling on campus and as a general mode of transportation, according to the UA parking and transportation website. Permits and registration are required for bicycle parking on campus.
That’s in stark contrast to UA automobile parking permits whose costs range from $65.01 for remote, motorcycle and scooter passes to $854.05 for parking garage reserved passes, according to the UA parking and transit website.
Forty-five percent of UA faculty and 27 percent of UA students own bicycles, but only 14 percent of bicycle owners register their bikes on-campus, according to a 2015 UA transportation study.
Fewer than 10 percent of UA bicycle owners ride daily or a couple of days a week, and 65 percent said they never ride their bike to campus, said Eric Boles, director of the office for sustainability, by email. Twenty percent ride to campus infrequently and approximately 13 percent ride when it is nice out.
The city has led the push for progress in building a bicycle friendly infrastructure in Fayetteville, said Dane Eifling, bicycle programs coordinator for Fayetteville.
“Usually in college towns, the universities will be pushing for bikes,” Eifling said. “We would love for them to be the leader demanding more of the city rather than the other way around.”
The campus is connected to Fayetteville’s trails system by the Oakridge Trail, which extends east and west along Center Street, Eifling said.
The hope is to link the north of campus in a similar way by connecting the Razorback Regional Greenway to Maple Street on campus.
“The city of Fayetteville is doing a wonderful job,” said Kenny Williams, coordinator for UREC Outdoors. “If UA campus was trying to keep up with what the city of Fayetteville is doing they would be doing a wonderful job as well. But it doesn’t feel like campus is trying to keep up with Fayetteville.”
Williams rides his bike daily, he said, and described the bicycling infrastructure on campus as “vague.”
“The campus lacks designated bicycles directions,” Williams said. We need a designated way to get around campus.”
The campus has a pedestrian-only dismount zone, an area where cyclists must walk with their bikes. It extends from the red brick sidewalk behind Old Main to the Student Union. The campus needs designated areas to ride and not only a designated area not to ride, Williams said.
More people cycling on campus would decrease traffic congestion, Williams said. Two areas he said he has seen the worst congestion are drivers trying to get into Harmon parking garage and drivers trying to get onto to West Clinton Drive.
“I’ve seen that get backed up really bad,” Williams said.
A UA Bicycle Advocacy Committee was formed this semester to improve the campus bicycling environment, said Eric Boles, director sustainability. The committee meets monthly and is analyzing campus “rideability” and has applied for Bicycle Friendly University status. The application to the League of American Bicyclists is under review. A 2014 application received an honorable mention, Boles said.
Boles and Jon Johnson, a professor in the Walton College of Business, spearheaded the advocacy committee.
“It is critical that our campus can connect seamlessly with all the great new trail systems popping up in our communities, and we are working to improve that connectivity,” Boles said in an email.
In 2014, Arkansas State University in Jonesboro became the only university in the state to be awarded a bicycle friendly status, according to the League of American Bicyclists website. Arkansas State has a bronze status.
Eifling said he thinks that is the “point at which the UofA saw they were falling behind.”
Bicycling could become the best way to commute to campus from some places as new development takes trail access into account, Eifling said.
Bicycle permits do not expire, Andy Gilbride, education instruction specialist for parking and transit, said in an email. The parking department does not have numbers for yearly totals, but 3,033 bicycles have been registered since 2009. UA enrollment is 27,194, according to the most recent enrollment report.
“I don’t have a bike now. I would like to have one,” said Annie Millett, staff member in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the Walton College of Business. “I’m looking for a hybrid bike. I’m a walker, but it would be nice to go faster.”
Sophomore Matthew Gonzalez said he cycles on campus and appreciated the availability of bikes racks. However, navigating pedestrian traffic on campus can be challenging.
“You have to constantly watch out for pedestrians,” Gonzalez said.
Fayetteville has moved up from bronze status to silver in bicycle friendliness, according to the League of American Bicyclist website.
“Our trails are certainly the strongest point in the bicycling infrastructure. I think our streets are becoming more bike friendly,” Eifling said. “We still have quite a way to go. I’m hoping to see protected bike routes. Right now, 1.2 percent of Fayetteville commuters ride bicycles, there are about 400 regular bike users in the city.”
The city measures bicycle ridership with trail surveys and has three motion sensor counters to time track data. These sensors are moved to different locations on the trails, but are always out counting, Eifling said.
A good bicycle infrastructure is designed for riders of all ages and experience levels, not only for the sports cyclists, Eifling said.
“The best bike infrastructure is built with the most vulnerable user in mind,” Eifling said. “They’ve got to feel safe.”