More Cycling On Campus

Monday, August 13, 2012

cartoon bike riding up a mountain side

Every year, students in the ENV 1101 course go about conducting surveys and collecting a massive amount of data about sustainability related activities on campus (all part of the Community Service Learning program). And every year, the Office of Campus Sustainability (mostly just Merissa actually), compiles that data and analyzes the results. There are many fun tidbits that we siphon from the data, including that this years findings seem to indicate that cycling is on the rise at the University of Ottawa.

In our surveys we ask the very simple question "do you bike to campus?" and offer a variety of possible answers. In 2011, the number of people that "occasionally bike" or "always bike" was 25%. This year that number has risen to 31%. The largest increase was in the number of people who "always bike" to campus (rising from 7% in 2011 to 19% in 2012).

Granted that these are self reported numbers and granted that the surveys are conducted by first year students, but if the trend holds, this means that there are an additional 2,000 people who are biking to campus. That represents more space than all the bike racks can accommodate, so you can see how this could be important. On the other hand, that pretty much absorbs the entire increase of students on campus from 2011.

When we dig down into the numbers we find that males are still biking more than females and that biking seems to be an age sensitive activity (the older the demographic group, the smaller the percentage of cyclists). Amongst students, proximity to campus and cost are the biggest driving factor for why people bike to campus (with student employment at an all time low I guess that makes sense); whereas, distance appears to be the biggest barrier. Incidentally, graduate students are the most likely individuals to bike to campus.

So what does all this mean? First off, awesome that people are cycling more. Ideally our goal is to eliminate the barriers to biking to campus so we can get more people cycling. So, what's holding us back?

It looks like communications might be our big problem. Only 3% of respondents felt that the City was unsafe for cycling so that's good. 10% of people said they worried about sweating too much and 7% said they were afraid of theft. A third of people said that they felt the University didn't have enough end facilities (bike racks, showers, bike racks, etc.) so that is a little high. But when we asked about people's knowledge of bike programs on campus, that's where we ran into a bit of trouble.

58% of respondents never heard of the Bike Share program, 42% never heard of the Secure Bike enclosure, and 62% never heard of the Bike Coop.

Now for the fun part... what can we do to make things better? First of all, we need to put more time into talking about the programs available to the campus community. Health issues have a huge resonance with older members of the community so we should be doing our best to push that message. And of course more bike parking needs to be added. With so many people on campus using their bikes, no rack will be wasted.

Got any suggestions?


~jON - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo

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