By Alex Mann
For Unwind magazine
As part of its commitment to sustainability, and in preparation for a growing campus with fewer parking spaces, the University of Maryland is promoting another mode of transportation: bicycling.
“We are trying to get people to think about their transportation decisions as a part of their overall commitment to sustainability,” bicycle coordinator at the Department of Transportation Services Aaron Goldbeck said. “We need to underscore the connection between transportation and sustainability.”
A few weeks into the semester, 250 people have already registered bicycles, putting DOTS on track to surpass their annual registration average of approximately 400 to 500 bikes, according to Goldbeck.
“I do think there are a lot more bikes around,” Ivan Reimers, a junior agriculture resources and economics major and RecWell Bike Shop employee, said. “[There are] definitely a lot more than three years ago.”
For evidence of the trend, look no further than the bike racks around campus.
“I think biking has grown a lot,” junior behavioral and community health major Monique Parker said. “It’s even grown a lot since from when I started biking last September. At the gym…there used to be so many biking spaces, but now I have to triple park my bike.”
The university is making an effort to provide many cycling options with daily, weekly and semester-long bike rentals available at the RecWell Bike Shop, while Zagster’s mBike bicycle-sharing program is booming in its inaugural year.
“I think that UMD’s initiative to create a bike sharing system is definitely an important step in the right direction, even though some aspects could still be improved,” doctoral student in public policy Sergio Pinto said.
The mBike program is equipped with a fleet of 135 bikes across 15 stations. Loaner bike options include traditional cruiser bikes, tricycles, tandem bikes and hand-operated cycles for those with disabilities. It is the only bike-share program in the country that caters to the disabled, according to Goldbeck.
“I see [Zagster bikes] being used a lot,” Reimers said. “It’s like owning your own bike but you don’t have to worry about maintaining it.”
As campus grows, parking spots are going to become more highly contested. Goldbeck said increased bicycle usage could help ease the burden. He noted that about 20 bikes can occupy one parking space.
Bicycle parking is available around campus, although increasing bicycle culture might require additional resources. “No, I don’t think there are enough bike racks,” Parker said. “I don’t think there’s enough respect on the streets, like there aren’t enough symbols saying ‘Hey, we can take a full lane.’”
Both Parker and Reimer noted that riding makes everything feel closer and that it can cut campus transit time in half.
“I do think that biking is by far the most efficient way to get around campus, and I would absolutely recommend it,” Pinto said. “I think I can get to anywhere I need to faster than I would under any alternative… in an environmentally friendly way.”