Friday, July 11, 2008

Some thoughts about Wichita State U's bike-friendliness

A Miró mural dominates the entrance to the Ulrich Art Museum on the WSU campus. Image found here.

Yesterday's trip took me to the library at WSU. Anyone who has biked at WSU knows that, as far as riding around is concerned, the campus is ideal for just such an activity: slow traffic, lots of shade, wide, wide sidewalks, and the added treat of passing by many of the school's fine collection of sculptures. For me personally, feeling more than a bit stressed from having ridden on a busy 13th Street and then Hillside, tooling about the campus provided an oasis-like physical and mental relief.

My mood changed a bit, though, when I arrived at the entrance to the library. Despite a wide-open layout there that would easily allow for the placement of bike-racks near the doors without at all causing crowding around or impeding access to them, there were none. I finally found a small (6-bike) rusting metal rack on the south side of the building, being used at the time by two other bikes but literally gathering leaves and other debris. While I was happy that I found a rack, it occurred to me that as I rode about the campus, I didn't recall seeing any other bike-racks at all. I'm sure they're there; they're just tucked away in inconspicuous places near the various buildings.

As I thought about why this is, I came up with a couple of ideas. WSU is predominantly a commuter school, and the campus itself is fairly compact and easily walkable; servicing cyclists isn't therefore, a pressing need the way it is at other, larger schools because not many students feel a need to use bikes there. However, the immediate neighborhoods provide lots of cheap housing to students, and if current trends about cycling continue as they are, it's not hard to guess that more students will begin biking to school. Perhaps, come the fall, the administration will feel the need to provide more--and more conspicuously-placed--bike-racks.


R. Sherman said...

When I went to Mizzou, every building had a minimum of one ten-bike rack at every entrance. Although Columbia was not particularly bike friendly in terms of streets, everyone seemed to get along pretty well.

Cheers and good luck on the new endeavor.

John B. said...

Yeah: What you describe at Mizzou seems appropriate to me. As I note, I'd be surprised if I didn't see some changes in that direction at WSU

As for the idea of bike-friendliness: Probably more important than infrastructure changes, there also needs to occur a sort of consciousness-raising--and among cyclists (who need to observe the basic rules of the road) as much as among motorists. Right now here in town, there's not even any discussion in the traditional media of the rise in bike sales, much less discussion of infrastructure. So maybe, just maybe, this little blog can be a part of getting that discussion going.