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U.Va. to Peddle Bikes for Students, and Make It Safer to Ride Them

August 15, 2011 — The University of Virginia is doing even more this year to encourage students, staff and faculty to get around on two wheels.

Having already installed a bicycle repair station in front of Clark Hall, provided bike racks all over Grounds and put bicycle carriers on the University Transit System buses, the Department of Parking and Transportation is now adding shared lane markings for bicyclists on a heavily traveled section of Alderman Road and opening the new academic year with an on-Grounds bicycle sale.

"Bicycles are a healthy, environmentally responsible form of transportation and we are encouraging students, faculty and staff to use them on and around Grounds," Rebecca White, director of the Department of Parking and Transportation, said.

The sale will take place Aug. 22, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Student Activities Building near Scott Stadium. Three local bike shops – Blue Ridge Cyclery, Blue Wheel Bicycles and C'ville Bike & Tri – will sell helmets, chains, tubes, lights, reflectors and other gear. Demonstration bikes will be available for test rides and fitting; while there will be a small inventory on hand, most will have to be delivered or picked up at a later date.

"The main goal of the sale is to give our students access to the equipment they need to ride safely and keep their current, or new, bikes in proper working order," said Jonathan Monceaux, transportation demand management professional with the Department of Parking and Transportation. "In the spring, we impounded dozens of abandoned bikes, many of them left behind due to poor maintenance. The sale will introduce students to the local shops that they can visit for future tune-ups or equipment needs. Students can also find tubes, locks and more at the University Bookstore."

Several bike maintenance and safety workshops are scheduled during the week:

•    "Bike Commuting 101" will be held Aug. 22, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., at the Student Activities Building  with instructor Mary Cook. The free class will focus on proper gear, attire and knowledge of traffic laws.
•    "Basics of Bike Maintenance," a workshop, led by Scott Paisley and Roger Friend of Blue Wheel Bicycles, will be held Aug. 23, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Newcomb Hall South Meeting Room. It will focus on topics such as gear adjustment and changing a tire tube.
•    "Safe Cycling" will be held Aug. 24, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., at the Newcomb Hall South Meeting Room. John Lawler of C'Ville Bike & Tri will conduct the free class.
•    A two-session "Traffic Skills 101" class will be held Aug. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. and Aug. 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall South Meeting Room. Chris Gist, a certified League of American Bicyclists instructor, will lead the class, which costs $20 for U.Va. affiliates and $40 for non-affiliates. It will include classroom time, an outdoor course and a group ride in traffic. Those who complete both sessions will receive a certificate. "We teach to ride safely and comfortably in city traffic," Gist said. 
•    Community Bikes, a local non-profit organization that promotes bicycling and recycles bicycles, will host an open house Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. at 612C Preston Ave. Volunteers will provide maintenance information, give advice on routes and educate students on volunteer opportunities. The University Transit System will run a van shuttle from Grounds to Community Bikes that evening; students are asked to sign up on the Parking & Transportation website.

Monceaux said Community Bikes refurbished some of last spring's abandoned bikes and returned five to be used in the department's fleet.

"The pilot program will begin with Parking and Transportation, Facilities Management, the Office of the Architect and the Office of Community Relations," Monceaux said. "People in those departments will take the safety classes and each department will get one bicycle, except P&T, which will get two. More bikes can be added if the program catches on."

Riders coping with soft or flat tires will have additional options this year. The Green Grounds student organization worked with the University Library to make tire pumps available for checkout at the circulation desks of Alderman, Fiske Kimball Fine Arts and Charles L. Brown Science & Engineering libraries. 

The University is also piloting a shared lane marking, or "sharrow," program – pavement markings that remind motorists and bicyclists to share the road with each other. The city of Charlottesville is also experimenting with the concept on Water and West Main streets.

"It will be a pilot program that creates a corridor for cars and bicycles in places where the road is not wide enough for a separate bicycle lane," White said. "They will run down Alderman Road from McCormick Road to Jefferson Park Avenue. The road has to be relatively flat and the car has to be moving at about the same speed as the bicycles."

To help students navigate the area, updated Smart Transportation Maps for transit and bicycle riders are available in print and online. The maps show bike paths, roads that have bike lanes or sharrows, quieter bike routes, caution zones, dismount zones and where to find maintenance supplies.
 
The University also plans to offer seasonal bicycle storage for out-of-state and international students who are unable to bring their bikes home during the winter break and over the summer, Monceaux said. "We will setting up bike racks in the caged area of the Emmet/Ivy Garage where students will be able to bring their bike on a set date, and then pick it up on a set date after the break," he said.

Students will be charged a storage fee and provide their own locks. Information will be available on the Parking & Transportation website in September.

— By Matt Kelly

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