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How Georgetown Shifts the Focus from Driving to Biking On Campus
The League’s Bicycle Friendly America program began awarding honors to universities in 2011 because college campuses provide a perfect canvas for creating a welcoming place for people who bike. From the often carless on-campus residents to the commuting students and staff to the linkages to the community, universities can be a model for better bicycling.
Bicycle Friendly Universities (BFUs) not only make it safer and easier for students, faculty and staff to get around by bike, but they also leverage the power of bicycling to improve the health, sustainability and connectivity of their campus community by getting more people out of cars and onto bikes.
In fact, when we recognized 33 schools in our 2021 round of Bicycle Friendly University awards, we applauded those finding both innovative and basic ways to make biking (and other modes of active transportation) a more sensible option.
“On many campuses, bikes are simply another way to get around but at Bicycle Friendly Universities, we’ve seen that students, faculty and staff are encouraged to think beyond the utility of bikes as transportation, truly valuing their ability to foster a healthier, safer, more connected campus life,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, in the press release. “[The 2021] round of BFUs are not only making it possible for people to bike around campus but are implementing policies, programs and infrastructure improvements that encourage people to drive less and bike more for their health and the planet.”
One example is Georgetown University (GU), the DC-based school with more than 11,000 students has been in the Bicycle Friendly University program since 2013 and recently renewed its Bronze-level award in our 2021 round. What stood out to us in Georgetown’s latest application is the school’s focus on shifting trips around campus from driving to biking and walking. Besides the fact that biking and walking are more fun, Georgetown sees the benefit of getting more bikes on campus to reduce congestion and emissions.
“The Campus Plan for Georgetown requires a reduction in single-occupancy vehicle traffic over time and GU is committed to reducing single-occupancy vehicle trips despite our location that is not near a rail station, is a hilly campus and is bounded by historic, narrow streets with little bike infrastructure,” said Lindsey Bullen, GU’s former transportation demand manager at the time they applied. “Because of this, we are constantly thinking of ways to shift the modes people are using to travel to campus. Biking plays a large role in that so anytime construction is done or improvements made to a building, we're thinking of opportunities to add bike parking or improve surrounding pathways.”
A basic way to get people to think about biking more and driving less is to make less space for car parking and car traffic and designate more space for biking. Georgetown University offers a limited amount of parking for visitors and employees and strongly encourages students, visitors and employees to use alternate forms of travel.
“In 2015, the university designated a large portion of the main campus as a ‘pedestrian core’ on which through traffic and ridesharing vehicles are not allowed,” said Lindsey. “In addition, the university has a parking cap in place and cannot add any additional parking to our campus which means non-vehicular modes will become even more popular as the campus grows. At present, only 30% of our trips to campus are single-occupancy vehicle trips.”
Presenting bicycling as a more feasible and common sense alternative to people who may not view it as such can be a challenge, but providing information on route planning, bike share availability and bicycle amenities all in one place can help commuters think through the barriers they'll need to overcome. Georgetown’s transportation website features an “Alternatives to Driving” section with information on public transportation and of course, bicycling »
The “Alternatives to Driving >> Bicycling” section features its Bicycle Friendly University award and information on the online route finding service Ride the City DC, monthly Bike Commuting 101 classes hosted by GUWellness, combining trips with campus transit (all of Georgetown’s buses include bike racks), bicycle registration and security, and a designated contact for questions.
To help visualize a commute, on and off-campus bicycle amenities can be easily identified using a customized Google map. Markers include:
- Capital Bikeshare stations: all undergraduate, graduate, Law Center, and Medical Center students are offered a discounted $25 Capital Bikeshare Annual Membership.
- Bike parking: there are more than 1,100 bicycle parking spaces on Georgetown’s campus and covered bike parking available in seven places.
- Showers, changing rooms and commuter lockers: multiple administrative offices have showers available to staff and there are showers and lockers available to graduate students on the ground floor of the Car Barn.
- Bike repair stand and air pump stations: stations to fix your bike or fill up your tires are located in various points across campus.
- Local bike shops: any bike shops located within a half-mile of campus.
A primary goal of the BFU program, like all Bicycle Friendly America programs, is to help applicants identify priority areas to improve, and to provide the feedback and motivation to support campuses in being better for bicycling. While larger-scale initiatives, like implementing well-designed infrastructure and coordinating with DC to improve off-campus bikeway connections, are needed to truly make bicycling around the Georgetown campus a safe and more convenient transportation option, these are small, low-cost initiatives your university can take to make a big difference in helping people choose bicycling.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can improve bicycling on your campus or become a Bicycle Friendly University, visit bikeleague.org/university. Applications are currently open for our 2022 round of awards and will close on August 10th, 2022 at 11:59 pm PT.