It was with much fanfare that the University’s consultant Toole Design Group, LLC released its Campus Bicycle Plan (RTCP Summary HERE) in April of this year. The report offers a detailed 3-year infrastructure implementation plan estimated to cost over $1.1 million. Given the fiscal straights the State and the University find themselves in at the moment, UMD is pursuing the recommendations on only a limited basis. It seems unlikely that we will see even close to such an outlay in the near future given the University’s competing transportation priorities (unless outside money presents itself). Indeed according a conversation with Beverly Malone, UMD’s assistant to the director of the Department of Transportation Services, the University is moving forward with only a few of the most cost-effective initiatives:
- education/bike registration programs
- moving the campus bike shop to Cole Field House from the ERC (dramatically increasing its use year-to-date)
- parking spaces and bike boxes in garages
- better communication among UMD departments (i.e. bike rack placement)
- campus bike brochure that shows bike racks, shower locations, and other bike amenities
UMD should be commended for these changes. That being said, we are definitely disappointed by the limited scope of their program. We’ve long advocated for some of Toole’s proposals and support nearly all of its hard infrastructure recommendations. We believe they will pay dividends long into the future. The recommendations (if you forgot) include:
- Improved internal bicycle connections
- General design improvements: bike lanes, shared lane markings, other pavement markings, off-road conditions, multi-use trails and widened sidewalks
- Spot improvements: road crossing enhancements, intersection improvements, curb ramp improvements, and general design enhancements where sidewalks, roads, and crosswalks intersect
- Improved external bicycle connections
- Enhanced bicycle parking including a robust “Bike Station” in the center of campus
- A wayfinding strategy
Implementing these recommendations should be a top transportation priority for the University. If we can integrate something that resembles Toole’s proposed On Campus routes and College Park’s already extensive trail system using a common wayfinding program and mapping effort, we could tremendously improve the stature of biking in the area. This will require an active partnership between UMD, MNCPPC, and the City to identify gaps in bike system and make smart planning decisions/investments that both integrate the systems and makes them more commuter-friendly. Perhaps the color scheme proposed by Toole (2 pictures below) is unnecessarily ambitious, but UMD’s planned installation (by spring) of “Share the Road Signs” and “Sharrow” pavement markers (example below) will hardly be enough to appreciably increase the bike modeshare on campus. We need lanes and separated trails that put bikes out of conflict with heavily pedestrian areas and out of harms way from cars. We need outdoor signs and information kiosks with maps depicting where bike trails and safe road routes are….. the soon to be constructed Northgate Park would be a great place for such a map. Most of all: we need a Campus Drive closed to cars (immediately).
While we commend UMD on their efforts, we believe more is possible than what they are pursuing. On a relative basis, what we are talking about will require little public investment (All of Toole’s recommendations would cost roughly the same as 4 new Shuttle UM busses). They should be pursuing ever conceivable opportunity for grant money. UMD and the City both jumped on the COG TIGER Grant for a visionary DC Metropolitan Bike Sharing Program (about 1,600 bikes and 160 stations). The grant is highly competitive and they won’t get it.
The fact that there is not one foot of bike lane on campus or one sharrow shows that UMD has outright failed the university community on biking infrastructure to date. Now is no time for small plans and the City is far, far ahead in its efforts (both in implementation and planning). As the city nears completion of the trolley trail, UMD should take note of its persistence and unwavering dedication to making the trail a reality. It goes without saying, that if we can succeed at increasing the bike modeshare from 5 to 9% by 2012 and 15% by 2019 (as the bike study suggests), then a considerable amount of money will be saved in the form of unbuilt parking garages.