Making MSU more bike friendly — one pedal at a time
Since 2006, Tim Potter, cycling advocate and full-time manager of the MSU Bikes Service Center, has worked alongside his colleagues to making cycling more accessible and practical for the campus community, which includes getting MSU certified “bike-friendly.”
“When we opened the center, there wasn’t an option for a university to become certified. You had to apply as either a business or a community and really, universities are both,” Potter said. “We knew the process of earning the certification was important for affecting positive change for cyclists on campus and that we needed to make the distinction between universities and the other categories, so we worked to get that changed.”
Today, MSU is a silver-level Bike Friendly University as designated by the League of American Bicyclists. Through their “Pedal for Platinum” initiative, Potter and other members of the MSU Bike Advisory Committee has embarked on a mission to bring MSU up to the platinum level soon — a feat only a few universities in the country have achieved.
“Other platinum-level universities have surrounding communities that are also gold or platinum level,” Potter said. “Bike commuters are traveling to campus from the surrounding area, so we’re working alongside community leaders in Lansing and East Lansing to improve their ratings as well.”
Lansing and East Lansing, both bronze-level communities, are among the 12 Michigan cities deemed bike-friendly. MSU is one of four Michigan universities at the silver level, the highest level achieved thus far in the state.
Bill McConnell, an associate professor in the College of Social Science specializing in land use policy, is working to bring the MSU Bike Advisory Committee together with the All University Traffic and Transportation Committee to improve transportation on campus holistically and get MSU certified at the platinum level.
As the chair for both the Bike Advisory Committee and AUTTC, McConnell aims to ensure cycling is part of the larger campus transportation conversation and the Campus Master Plan.
The AUTTC is responsible for advising the administration on matters pertaining to motorized and non-motorized transportation on campus.
“From my perspective, creating a more bike-friendly campus has to be an inclusive process,” McConnell said. “I’ve been biking to and around campus for 15 years, and the changes we’ve seen in that time have been tremendous. Between the university’s mobility initiative and new leadership at the regional transit provider, we have a good shot at reaching our goal.”
Although recent state legislation has helped make the roads safer for cyclists, a recurring issue campus cyclists face is a lack of infrastructure, which includes secure bike parking.
To help combat this, the university recently designated two card-access, covered bike parking areas inside ramps 5 and 6, available to all MSU ID holders for a small fee.
Marian Reiter, a former graphic artist in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has been biking on campus during the more than 40 years she worked here and frequented the bike garage. Now in her retirement, she still chooses to get around town on her bike.
“I started leaving my bike in the garage as soon as it opened,” Reiter said. “It’s such a great thing to have, especially in the winter. Your bike is kept secure and protected from the elements. It’s right there when you need it and you have access to tools and an air pump to tune it up if you need to.”
Looking back, Reiter remembers a time before the bike center. “There wasn’t a whole lot of infrastructure or support on campus for cyclists. I think the center has really built a community around cycling at MSU — the knowledge and experience they offer to the campus community is invaluable,” she said.
Other campus resources available to bike commuters include eight 24/7, do-it-yourself bike repair stands equipped with basic tools and an air pump, free showers/locker space at IM Circle and one-on-one commuter assistance to ensure cyclists can find a safe, low-stress route for getting to and from campus. A green transportation map of campus cycling resources is available to download at go.msu.edu/SyP.
“It really is a commitment to become a bike commuter,” said Aubrey Hoermann, service manager at the MSU Bikes Service Center and longtime cyclist. “It starts with small changes to your daily routine and being flexible when it comes to timing and weather. If anyone has an interest, we invite them to come chat with us and ask questions. We’re here to share our experience and offer advice to anyone with an interest.”
Hoermann served as a bike messenger in the dense urban environments of Detroit and San Francisco (where he also owned his own bike shop) for 10 years before returning to Michigan to join the center.
“We have a new crop of students and employees every semester, so a big part of what we do is sharing our knowledge of strategies that work for safely riding in traffic, keeping your bike tuned up and securely parked to keep your bike on the road,” he said.
Find tips and resources for campus cyclists from the MSU Bikes Service Center at go.msu.edu/HzP.