UT Austin designated Silver Level Bike Friendly University
“The Bicycle Friendly University awards reflect local leaders’ ongoing work to build better places to bike and evaluate those efforts as part of a national movement,” according to the league. “Each of the five levels of the Bicycle Friendly Business award – diamond, platinum, gold, silver, and bronze, plus an honorable mention category – provide a clear path for universities and colleges to continuously improve.”
UT Austin has been consistently designated a Bike Friendly University since 2013.
“Jeremy Hernandez served as the PTS bike coordinator for nearly eight years, obtaining award-winning recognition from the League of American Bicyclists, setting up the Orange Bike Program, working towards adding bicycle lanes on campus and making our annual bicycle auction completely virtual, but his greatest impact was in how he made people feel,” said Blanca Gamez, director of Parking and Transportation Services.
In the most recent round of awards, only eight universities were recognized. Of those eight, only four are silver. UT Austin’s rank moved up from a Bronze Level award to a Silver Level award for this round of designation. The Bike Friendly University application opens every two years. This time UT Sustainability applied for recognition.
“The broader role of Sustainability is to collaborate with units on initiatives that are important to them,” said Jim Walker, director of Sustainability. “This includes applying for awards or designations that are external to the university.”
The Bike Friendly University award showcases Sustainability and BikeUT’s overlap for several reasons:
- Bikes promote a carbon-free way to get around the university grounds.
- Biking around a Tree Campus USA campus can improve mental health.
- Having this designation is attractive to prospective students.
In pursuit of remaining a Bike Friendly University, policies and infrastructure have been implemented, some of which are even lifesaving interventions. The introduction of pedestrian and bike lanes in and around campus for example, was an effort that took collaboration between Parking and Transportation Services and the staff council.
“Truly separated lanes on Red River, above the curb and separated from the road and pedestrian ways were a monumental leap forward,” said Walker.
A relationship between the university and scooter companies was established to ensure bike paths remained clear.
This makes lanes safer for bikers to navigate. Electronic bike lockers have also been launched on campus. Bike lockers are available for rent at seven university parking garages. High-security bike lockers offer individual covered bike parking with key access. They are ideal for overnight parking, long-term storage, additional security, and for commuters who prefer to not carry or use bike locks.
Because of the university's partnership with MetroBike, all students, faculty, and staff have access to an annual membership at a reduced price. For commuters who may not own a bike or do not have one on campus when the need arises, there are seven MetroBike stations on or near the main campus, with an additional four stations spread across the west campus area. MetroBike stations are also set up across the surrounding area of campus and Austin’s Downtown district.
These bike stations are one example of how the city and UT bleed into each other. Receiving a designation like this, and improving UT’s ranking, is a good indicator to the biking community in and around campus that cyclists’ safety and needs are a priority for the university.
According to Gamez, Jeremy, who passed away on December 22, 2021, was instrumental in achieving the bike-friendly designation.
“He was someone who would always make you smile and offer his time with no expectation other than friendship. His spirit was always positive and upbeat, excited to meet the challenges of the day, a true inspiration to those around him,” said Gamez.