By Aaron Claycomb
As the fall semester continues, new alternative parking choices are becoming available for students, faculty and staff on all three campuses. Cyclists now have a place to store and secure their bikes at TWU.
Physical Plant director, Ron Tarbutton said that a total of 31 new bike racks are being added to the Denton campus in addition to two existing bike racks. “On the Denton campus, when the project is completed,” Tarbutton noted, “we will have added 185 bicycle parking spaces for a total of 335” spaces. Tarbutton added that in Houston, the number of available spaces will be increased to 37 bike parking spaces— increasing it from three to five bike racks where 21 spaces currently exist. The Dallas campus will have eight bike racks added in the parking garage, contributing to a total of 72 available spaces.
In addition to bicycle racks being added to all three TWU campuses, Kyle Voyles, Student Union director at TWU, reported that repair stations will also become available for student use. Tarbutton also adds that “You’re going to be able to go and repair your bike…[with] some standard tools attached to steel cables, so you can stand up and tighten and loosen and fix flats.” Two bike repair stations will be on the Denton campus, one at Dallas and another in Houston, Voyles confirmed in an email.
The bike racks behind the Student Union were completed last week, by facility workers, Marty Looper and Clarence Johnson, who were working on the installation Thursday afternoon. So far, Tarbutton said, facilities still has nine more bike racks to install on the Denton campus, two of those to be completed by the end of the week. Tarbutton said that he hopes to have the project complete by November, and is uncertain for when the repair stations will be fully installed. “The maintenance stations have just been requested,” Tarbutton remarked, and are awaiting arrival in order to begin the installation process. The repair stations will become available to students, and just “depends on delivery time and installation,” Voyles noted in an email.
Regarding the Guinn and Stark dorms, “We’ve [already] determined that there are not enough [bike] spaces in housing,” Tarbutton said, and “it seems like more people are bringing [bikes].” As the need for bike spaces grows, he said, additional installations will be considered.
The total cost for each unit is approximately $900, Voyles stated in an email, and the Student Union is funding one of these repair stations for cyclists. According to Voyles, Fitness and Recreation also purchased one bike repair station to be located outside their facility.
Last spring, “the Union was noticing more and more bikes,” Amy O’Keefe, director of Commuter Services and Non-traditional Student Services said, while her office was “looking for alternative ways for students to commute other than a car.” With the combined efforts “through the Union, Commuter Services, and Facilities Management,” Voyles said, they believe these bike racks and repair stations had now become necessary for TWU. All parties agreed and approved these additions to the TWU campuses, he noted in his email.
While the offices noticed these similarities and converged on the first initiative toward a solution, O’Keefe added, a group of students and faculty, approached Commuter Services about becoming more bike friendly. Nancy Gotcher and Gavin DeCuir, web designers at TWU, both approached Commuter Services in regards to the biking issue they were witnessing on campus last semester. “For a campus, it just seemed weird that there were no facilities for bikes,” Gotcher commented. DeCuir and Gotcher, both regular cyclists,shared a common interest in the bicycle accommodations on TWU’s Denton campus, and together, they assisted in deciding the locations for the new bike racks.
After talking to Commuter Services and the Student Union, “we just grabbed a notebook and a camera… and walked the whole [Denton] campus,” Gotcher said, “just to determine where people were chaining their bikes.” They were all over the place, DeCuir reported, chained to “trees, stairwells…and anywhere there were rails.” Over the course of the summer, they completed this campus-wide survey, Gotcher explained. DeCuir said that when he would chain his bike, he would notice the “old bike racks on campus, some of which were in disrepair, and some of which turned up missing.” The specific bike rack he was using, located at the union, just “disappeared” one day, he added.
After the requests were made to facilities, Tarbutton stated, they had to generate a list of potential locations for installations to be built. The consideration list included: “aesthetics, convenience, relatively flat ground, adjacent to hard surface if practical, safe exit paths from buildings, ADA interference, 10 feet from Code Blue poles, avoid designated smoking areas, avoid planned future construction, existing utilities,” and checking for trees, which may interfere. For instance, modifications which were made to accommodate the installations were “rerout[ing] some sprinkler heads so they wouldn’t spray on the bikes,” Tarbutton added, “and that was something we did consciously as well.”
Dr. Agatha Beins, assistant professor of Women’s Studies at TWU, bikes almost every time she comes to campus, she noted in an email. Although she has a car, the last time she filled it with gas was July 13. “I rarely need to drive around town,” Beins stated in her email. “For the most part, my bicycle is a commuting vehicle.” Beins considers cycling a form of exercise, plus “It takes a car off the road, and bikes take up less parking space on campus.”
Beins said in an email, that she and Howard Draper, “a former Denton resident who has been involved in Querencia,” met with Voyles at the end of the spring 2011 semester to give input on the biking community. Querencia Community Bike Shop is located in Denton at 215 West Oak St., a non-profit bicycle co-op, and according to its website, “offers open access to the necessary work space, tools, parts, and instructional resources for one to build, repair, and maintain one’s own bicycle.” Gotcher noted that she has donated bikes to Querencia, and is glad to see this sort of project available for the community.
Beins added that, “Last year Denton passed the Vulnerable User Road Ordinance,” which mandates that cars and commercial vehicles must give minimum passing distance to bicyclists, and she is hopeful that TWU will also continue to improve road conditions for cyclists on campus, she said in her email. She hopes “that the visibility of the racks may encourage more people to consider coming to campus via bicycle…and more students who live on campus to bring their bicycles.”
Sarah Wilmore is one of those students living on campus who has just brought her bike to campus, and bikes around campus every day, she said. Wilmore currently rooms at Lowry Woods, and rides her Schwinn Ranger bike, and says it gets her from point A to point B much faster than walking.
Gotcher recalls when she first witnessed the new bike rack installations: “I walked out one day and these guys were doing something down there,” Gotcher said, as she referred to the new biking racks behind the Student Union. Referring to Wilmore’s new preferred bike rack, Gotcher relays, “I said ‘hey, what are you guys doing,’” she recalled, and they [Looper and Johnson] said, “‘we’re putting in bike racks.’ It was really cool because that was one of the areas that we talked about,” Gotcher said, and then she started to notice them all around campus.
“I love the bike racks and I think they are great,” Wilmore stated, as she chained up her bike Monday morning at the newly added bike racks behind the Student Union.