The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will celebrate a Bike to Campus Day May 17 starting at 7:45 a.m. as part of Bike to Work Week May 14-18. (See box for details.)
For those who bike to campus regularly, or even irregularly, biking offers wellness and financial benefits.
Peter Alexopoulos, a budget and policy analyst in UWM’s Office of Budget and Planning, has been biking to campus from the Third Ward almost every day for about three years. The days he’s missed are mostly because of snow or ice, he says.
He has a concise list of reasons: “To make sure I exercise each day; as a way to clear my head and relax before and after work; to help cut down on fossil fuel emissions; and, of course, to save money that would otherwise be spent on gas and parking fees.”
Cory Coleman, a musician who works for the Dance Department, starts biking to campus when the weather gets warm. “I like being at one with the elements, just being outside and enjoying the breeze and the smells of flowers.” He’d bike in every day, he says, but sometimes he has to bring along the tools of his musical trade, like a large drum that doesn’t fit well on his bike.
Kerry Korinek, School of Education administrative program specialist, used to bike to work almost every day, but a move to Bay View made it more challenging to arrive fresh at work in the morning after an 8½-mile ride. Her compromise: “When the weather is nice, I take my bike to work on the bus bike rack and bike home at the end of the day.”
She’s been biking around Milwaukee for 18 years. “It’s a good way to enjoy the city – taking it slow, being out in the open as you go past the buildings and the people, enjoying the smells of the restaurants you pass – it’s a different tactile experience than being in a car or on a bus, one that makes the city feel very real and yourself very situated in it.”
Provost Johannes Britz bikes in every day, winter and summer. It’s healthy and saves him commuting time over the bus and park and ride, he says. He has a winter and a summer bike, and carries rain and snow gear for when they may be needed. “I enjoy the challenge of the weather.”
Kurt Binter Young, a facilities architect in Campus Planning, bikes every day he doesn’t need his car for work or other obligations, and “if there is less than a 30 percent chance of rain, the temperature is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit and the winter roads are clear enough to feel I do not need studded tires.”
“My commute is my time: to think, to not think; to relax, to sprint; to scowl at getting cut off by a car; to wave and smile at people to let them know how great it is to move oneself.” And, he adds, he gets a close-up view of nature. “I have seen fox, swans, deer and cranes within the city limits.”
“It’s a lifestyle trifecta,” says Helaine Hickson, program manager in the School of Education: “One, exercise is good for the body and soul; two, virtually free transportation and no fuel or parking fees are good for the wallet; three, door-to-door parking is a big time saver.”
Many UWM students also are regular commuters.
Dan Pak, a junior in economics, has been riding the mile to campus for three years every day when the weather permits. Like others, he says that short trip is faster by bike than by bus.
“I don’t have a [driver’s] license,” says sophomore Lucas Brower, so his bike is his main mode of transportation between his family home in Shorewood, his girlfriend’s house on Brady St. and the campus.
UWM is adding bike-friendly equipment and programs, according to campus leaders on the issue. The UBike program, which is funded through student fees, is responsible for the new air compressor located just east of the UWM Union. The program has also offered bike repair workshops for students, and is planning more for this fall, according to Kyle Schulz, UBike coordinator.
In addition to the the air pump, the campus has added 14 bike racks this spring, is looking at bike parking in the Union garage and adding bike corrals, says Kate Nelson, environmental sustainability coordinator. She’s planning a Bicycling to Campus Work Group to discuss a bike plan for UWM that looks at the “Five Es”: Engineering (road conditions, parking); Enforcement (safe riding, legal parking); Encouragement (programs, culture); Education (how-to, good routes, safety); and Evaluation (planning, measuring results).
Her office would also like to do an updated survey of the percentage of faculty, staff and students biking to campus. The last survey in 2008 showed about four percent of students, 10 percent of faculty and four percent of staff biked to campus.
Rising gas prices have probably increased that number, says Nelson. “Hitting the wallet is one of the best motivators for alternative transportation.”