Opinion: Lack of bike-friendly designation weakens UWSP claim to sustainability leadership

[Note: This post was originally written and submitted to the Stevens Point Journal on October 23 as a letter to the editor. A version appears as a column in the November 14 edition of the Stevens Point Journal, p. 8A, under the headline “UWSP is failing on bike friendliness.” The original below contains links to references for assertions in the print version.

Due to personal circumstances, I am only posting this to the PPSP blog now, almost two months after I originally wrote it. I apologize for this delay.]

I applaud the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point on the National Campus Sustainability Day fair they held this week [in late October – see note above], as reported in the Stevens Point Journal. The article outlined several of the wonderful initiatives the University has implemented to enhance its sustainable practices.

Also this week [in late October – see note above], the League of American Bicyclists unveiled their updated list of Bicycle Friendly Universities, including those added in the latest round of evaluations. Unfortunately – and shamefully – UWSP does not appear on this list of one hundred colleges and universities around the US.

League of American Bicyclists blog post announcing latest Bicycle Friendly University Awards:

League of American Bicyclists list of all Bicycle Friendly Universities – linked from above source:

Three other UW campuses have been named Bicycle Friendly Universities: Madison, Milwaukee, and Eau Claire. If UWSP truly considers itself a national leader in sustainable practices, how can it justify its absence from this list?

The US Environmental Protection Agency website states that in 2012, transportation accounted for 28% of total US greenhouse gas emissions, second only to electricity generation among economic sectors.

US Environmental Protection Agency website with info about greenhouse gas sources:

This statistic makes clear that any meaningful strategy to embrace sustainable practices at UWSP must include reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation sources. Whole-hearted support of policies promoting bicycling for trips within 2 miles of campus is therefore a critical component of such a strategy.

Actions demonstrating such support could include installation of covered bicycle parking areas, establishment of a campus-wide bike-share program, and designation of a campus bicycle coordinator to encourage bicycle use among students, staff, and visitors.

A benefit of increased bicycle usage would be a reduced need to build – and pay for – parking areas for motor vehicles. Fewer cars around campus would also relieve some of the on-street parking issues Stevens Point continually struggles with. Progress on this latter item would certainly please neighboring Stevens Point residents.

I call upon Chancellor Bernie Patterson to take immediate action towards making UWSP more bicycle-friendly. Any claim of being a national leader in sustainable practices lacks credibility as long as UWSP remains absent from the League of American Bicyclists list of Bicycle Friendly Universities.

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