Bike usage on campus: limits emissions, helps the environment

The University of Rhode Island has a lot of work to do if they wish to make the campus more environmentally friendly, and the use of bikes is just option for improving sustainability.

Marsha Garcia, campus sustainability officer, explained that there used to be a bike program on campus where students were allowed to borrow bikes, yet there was no way to track where these bikes were going and no one was responsible for bringing them back. Although it was not successful, Garcia believes it would have worked if the proper infrastructure was in place.

Currently, there is a bike path planned to be constructed within the next couple of years. Garcia explained that the path will be a spur off of the South County Bike Path, also known as the O’Neil Bike Path. She said to think of it as a “shortcut,” since it will run through the bottom part of Peckham Farm, cut across Route 138 and all the way up to Flagg Road, hitting the residential areas on campus. Garcia said the university is still in the design stage, but they’re working with transportation in the state of Rhode Island and have all of the permits. The next step is putting together design documents and starting the actual construction.

There’s a bike rack outside of just about every building on campus, and Garcia said she has seen bike usage increase over the seven years that she’s been working at URI. However, there’s still a substantial amount of students who drive their car to campus alone instead of carpooling. If less people drove to school alone, not only would students reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they would also solve many problems on campus like parking and traffic jams, Garcia said.

Garcia explained that using a bicycle also promotes a healthier lifestyle by allowing users to have more exposure to the outdoors and appreciate being outside a little more often.

“It’s a good way to connect with nature,” Garcia said. “Otherwise, you’re going from your house to your car to a building where you’re having classes.”

David Fastovsky, professor and chair of the Department of Geosciences, rides his bicycle to work everyday. He said there is probably only 15 days of the year where he doesn’t ride his bike. He can’t imagine why more people don’t follow suit. Fastovsky said he doesn’t know how people can stand to wait in line on Upper College Road in traffic jams. On his bicycle, he doesn’t have to worry because he can ride right by all the traffic.

“I can’t think of a reason not to use a bike and can think of a lot of reasons not to use a car,” Fastovsky said.

Fastovsky remembers when the bike program was implemented years ago, but he was shocked by students’ actions that took place. He said there were a lot of bikes that were actually destroyed, thrown into ponds and driven over by cars during the program, showing a real disconnect between URI students and the rest of the world. Although connecting the South County bike path to campus would be helpful, Fastovsky doesn’t know if people living “down the line” would use it.

“I really don’t know the reasons not to [ride a bike],” Fastovsky said. “I enjoy my rides, I get exercise, I don’t pollute, it’s easier to park; the list goes on and on.”

Garcia explained that she doesn’t think a lot of students realize that the University has sustainability initiatives currently going on, and she is always free to talk with anyone about them or get ideas from people. For more information, visit http://web.uri.edu/sustainability/.