University focuses on bike-friendly, sustainable initiatives during Earth Week
The warnings painted across the covered walkway’s support beams no longer silently scold students, faculty and staff for riding their bicycles under the shaded corridors.
“SAFE BICYCLE RIDING ALLOWED,” they now read in red paint.
The changing of a single word is indicative of the shift the University has made toward facilitating cyclists on campus and the surrounding community.
“There’s been a huge increase in cycling here in the Valley, and we’ve seen it grow tremendously just in the past two years,” Director of Sustainability Programs Marianella Franklin said. “We’re seeing more and more student cyclists on campus.”
UTPA kicked off its Earth Week events early with an April 4 workshop that invited community leaders to learn how keeping cyclists in mind when revitalizing business districts can boost the local economy.
“A car will pass by a business at speeds that are pretty quick,” Franklin said. “[The] proper shading, the proper widths of sidewalks, the proper buffers, all of that will attract more pedestrians and cyclists to a business.”
The University is developing five sustainability initiatives, which are at various stages of development and range from waste management to alternative transportation. The closest to completion are the several bicycle repair stations Franklin said the University hopes to have up and running by late April or early May.
“This is going to help our campus community promote more cycling, which is wonderful in terms of sustainability because it promotes alternative transportation,” she said. “It’s great for our health, and it’s great in terms of our finances as well because it saves a lot of money.”
The stations will allow campus cyclists to hang their bikes up on a hook while repairs are made. Students, faculty and staff will have access to an air pump and be able to choose from tools that are attached to the station by retractable wires.
“It’s very basic, but it’s very helpful for those who come out of class and find that they have a flat tire or that a chain is loose or something like that,” Franklin said.
The idea originated from students and staff who approached the Office of Sustainability with concerns about parking and campus cycling. The department directed them to UTPA’s Committee for Transportation, led by Chief of University Police Roger Stearns.
“We’re here to be a resource more than anything,” Franklin said of her office. “We’re here to provide guidance to the campus and the campus community to help them operate in more sustainable ways, do research, and also to tie into curriculum.”
The theme of cycling continues to weave itself into UTPA’s Earth Week agenda with a presentation by designer Rob Forbes in the Engineering Building Friday at 6 p.m. Forbes founded the San Francisco-based company Design Within Reach and the PUBLIC Bikes line of bicycles.
Student organization Artists Unanimous’ exhibition Impact of Bikes will be on display in the Library First Floor Art Gallery through May 5. The show features paintings, drawings, and multimedia pieces integrating actual parts of bicycles into the artwork.
Representatives from The Office for Sustainability will also be present during Edinburg’s Arbor Day Festival Saturday and for McAllen’s “Vida Verde” festival at the Quinta Mazatlan World Birding Center April 21.
“We’re not doing everything here because we truly want to be a regional resource. We can’t do it alone,” Franklin said of promoting sustainability. “We need the support of everyone to do it in a collective manner.”