UConn has been named among a group of higher education institutions nationwide to receive “Bicycle Friendly University” status for the first time, a designation that recognizes its work to support and encourage bicycling as a healthy, environmentally friendly transportation option.
The League of American Bicyclists bestows the designation annually on colleges and universities, with UConn named this year among six higher education entities nationwide to achieve the honor for the first time. In total, there are 221 colleges and universities recognized with the designation throughout the U.S.
Ten of Connecticut’s towns and municipalities are among hundreds nationwide to also hold the Bicycle Friendly Community designation, including UConn campus host communities Mansfield, Hartford, and Farmington.
A coalition of cross-campus and Mansfield-area community partners have been working on securing the Bicycle Friendly University designation for UConn Storrs since the Town of Mansfield received its first recognition in 2017, which was recently renewed.
The designation also complements UConn’s Active Transportation Plan, which was developed in 2022 to make on-campus movement more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists, environmentally conscious, and accessible to people with all types of mobility needs.
Coryn Clark, an avid bicyclist and nurse practitioner with UConn Student Health & Wellness who coordinated UConn’s Bicycle Friendly University application with others on the working group, said she looks forward to more progress with the pedestrian-friendly and bicycle-friendly initiatives on campus.
“From my perspective as a health care provider, I am interested in the benefits to lifelong wellness afforded by bicycling and other forms of active transportation. Also, using bicycles to get around decreases the number of trips made by fossil fuel burning vehicles, an important component of protecting the environment,” she said.
UConn is the second Connecticut higher education institution to receive the designation, which Yale University also holds.
In addition to using information from the Active Transportation Plan and other sources for the Bicycle Friendly University application, UConn’s working group circulated a survey in 2021 for community input on benefits and barriers that people experience in bicycling to, from, and around campus.
When measuring from the center line, UConn Storrs has about 13 miles of on-campus roadways – of which 1.1 miles are closed to regular vehicle traffic, such as Fairfield Way and Mansfield Way — and approximately 7.5 miles on the outer perimeter directly adjacent to campus.
Those roadways are open to bicycles, as is the portion of Hillside Road that was closed starting last fall in the core of campus as part of a broader plan to make it more walkable and better accommodate bicycling and pedestrian safety.
UConn also has several other visible and behind-the-scenes initiatives on campus to support bicycling, including offering bicycle parking and storage near and/or inside most buildings and residence halls.
The University also requires all new building designs to include spots for bicycle parking; follows set schedules for repainting bike lanes and other maintenance; creates bike-friendly alternatives around construction areas; and offers a variety of bicycle safety, maintenance, and recreation courses and workshops through student Undergraduate Orientation, UConn Recreation, and UConn Civil & Environmental Engineering academic classes.
The Undergraduate Student Government (USG) also coordinates an annual spring Community Ride Day in conjunction with UConn’s divisions of Student Activities and University Safety, and UConn Recreation offers a popular Cycle Share program in which students can borrow bikes for short or long-term periods, receiving free helmets and locks as part of the rental.
UConn also has encouraged bicycling as part of its efforts toward environmental sustainability, including by offering maps of campus and the Town of Mansfield along with other resources to help people use their bikes both for commuting and recreational use, and by equipping its buses with bike racks so people can use both modes of transportation.
The UConn coalition that worked to secure the designation consisted of a broad cross-section of campus offices and groups from the Office of Sustainability; Student Health & Wellness; UConn Recreation; Facilities Operations and its Parking & Transportation Services offices; University Planning, Design & Construction; the Center for Excellence in Teaching & Learning; the UConn Cycling Club; the Undergraduate Student Government; the Division of University Safety; and individual undergraduates, graduate students, and employees interested in the topic.
“Congratulations to our new and renewing Bicycle Friendly Universities, whose efforts show our mission to build a Bicycle Friendly America – one where every person can safely and easily choose to bike – is rooted in every part of a community,” Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, said in the announcement.
“The 2022 cohort of BFUs, featuring colleges and universities of every size, joins a movement of communities and businesses investing resources in making bicycling safer and easier not only on campus, but in their surrounding communities as well,” he said.