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SIU, Carbondale hope to put new spin on bicycle use

A student braves the snow while biking to class Tuesday outside Faner Hall.

A student braves the snow while biking to class Tuesday outside Faner Hall.

By Anna Spoerre, @annaspoerre

Students and faculty are working to certify SIU as a bicycle-friendly university through the League of American Bicyclists. 

“We’re just seeing more and more students, faculty and staff use bicycles,” said Shannon McDonald, an architectural studies and interior design professor who is helping with the project.

McDonald said work on the project began about a year and a half ago when an art student applied for and received more than $2,000 from the university’s Green Fund to improve bicycle use at SIU.

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“It’s healthy, it’s good exercise and our campus is just wonderful for biking,” McDonald said. “Hopefully it encourages [and] allows for safer biking.”

SIU police Sgt. Chad Beights said there was just one on-campus bicycle accident in 2015, which involved two bikes. 

MORE: In April, an SIU student was hit by a vehicle near the Recreation Center

Luke Henson, a senior from Springfield studying architecture, said the certification requires SIU to consider bicycle education programs, bike lanes policies, bike racks and maintenance stations. Henson, who helped with the project, said the group is trying to find out how easy it is to use a bicycle on campus by surveying students on Desire2Learn. The survey will be online after spring break.

Shelby Orr, a junior from Savoy studying architecture, said the proposal for the certification should be finished by June.

In the meantime, Carbondale is developing a comprehensive bicycle plan for the community to become a more bicycle-friendly city.

“We’re working collaboratively [with SIU] because it’s mutually beneficial for us,” said Gary Williams, Carbondale’s city manager. “There’s a lot of marketing value for the university.”

If approved, Carbondale will become the 10th city in the state to receive this certification.

Williams said the average age of Carbondale residents is 23.5, which makes it important to consider the presence of college-aged individuals.

“We know that millennials are more inclined to ride bicycles and less inclined to ride in a car,” he said.

Carbondale’s city council on Tuesday approved spending $470,000 on a bicycle path between East Main Street and East Mill Street. The Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program will front $317,950 of the cost. 

Orr, who helped write the survey and document bike rack use, said she hopes this plan will make the city more accessible to students.

“It’s a sustainable way of getting somewhere,” Orr said. “In general, it improves the university by making it more green and energy efficient.”

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.

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