Clemson Moves up in the Ranks of Bicycle-Friendly Universities

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

The League of American Bicyclists has moved Clemson University to silver status on its lists of Bicycle Friendly Universities.

Silver status universities welcome cyclists, encourage cycling culture and provide opportunities for travel via cycling, according to the league.

Peter Knudsen, senior planner in Clemson’s university Planning and Design office, said Clemson’s increased attention to cyclists gives students, faculty and staff even more reason to take advantage of another option to get around campus. Knudsen said making cycling a more viable option reduces parking demand and encourages a healthier lifestyle. It also encourages people to slow down and enjoy the sights at Clemson University.

“It’s no secret that we have a beautiful campus, and the ability to cruise through that campus on a bike just magnifies that beauty,” Knudsen said. “I hope this designation encourages more people to get off the couch or out of cars and engage with the environment.”

Knudsen said as a silver status Bicycle Friendly University, Clemson has put the required work into what the league calls its “5 E’s.” Guidelines on engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation related to cycling help universities lay the groundwork for a community of informed cyclists who can enjoy a strong cycling culture in an environment designed with them in mind.

Knudsen said the addition of the cross-campus connector and expansion of bike lanes across campus provide the physical space that encourages cycling. Clemson’s BikeShare rental program allows anyone willing to pay a $5 annual membership to grab a bike for quick transportation between five bike stations around campus.

Charles Chancellor is director of Clemson’s bicycle research team and an associate professor in Clemson’s parks, recreation and tourism management department. The team strives to promote cycling holistically as part of community development and as a contribution to an area’s quality of life.

Chancellor said one of the research team’s goals since its inception in fall 2014 was to help Clemson move from bronze to silver status as a Bicycle Friendly University. He said the designation will only help to attract more students and employees who seek an outstanding place to live, learn and work.

“This designation definitely aligns with Clemson’s strategic priorities and demonstrates a commitment to bicycling, especially for transportation,” Chancellor said. “Bicycling as an alternate transportation option is often cited as a healthier and more sustainable form of transportation compared to fossil fuel-powered options and it is often quicker than walking.”

Chancellor and the research team provided total university bicycle counts as well as data gathered from a series of focus groups targeting bicycle commuters and non-commuters.

Chancellor said bicycle commuters desired more bike paths and lanes to make cycling safer and easier around campus. Feedback from these focus groups also pointed to the need for Clemson to strengthen its cycling culture.

Finding ways to effectively get the word out to all audiences on the availability and benefits of cycling will be a major step to strengthen that culture. Chancellor believes that addressing these needs will be important to move up in the Bicycle Friendly University ranks.

Changes to that physical space are certainly on the way, according to Knudsen. He said work on Walter T. Cox Boulevard (Highway 93) will see the addition of multi-use paths and bike lanes that will provide a connection from Clemson’s east to west ends. He said the inclusion of paths and expanded bike lanes in the near future will help the campus’ physical cycling network.

Knudsen said that a higher Bicycle Friendly University status may not be the top priority for many prospective students, but he does see it helping Clemson stand out among other schools.

“Students these days increasingly look at campuses and consider what a university is doing in terms of sustainability,” Knudsen said. “Having a robust bike network is a sure sign that we’re committed to it.”