This article originally appeared in The Virginia Gazette
WILLIAMSBURG — Elaborate fix-it stations, new bike racks, a cycling class and the beginning stages of a bike share and bike shop are all recent additions to the William and Mary campus thanks to a pair of students.
The Bike Initiative, an independent committee, began in November when Student Assembly members Brianna Buch and Gabriel Morey saw a need for improved cycling infrastructure on campus. The pair reached out to Williamsburg Area Bicyclists, a group of bike enthusiasts, and local bike shops to gather support and ideas.
They worked with the College's Director of Parking and Transportation Services, Bill Horachio, and Associate Director of Operations at the Sadler Center, Rich Thompson.
Morey credits Horachio for obtaining a majority of the funds needed for the fix-it stations, which will be installed and ready for use by mid-August.
"Every year parking services gathers up abandoned bikes on campus," Morey said. "They refurbish and sell them to students at the beginning of the next semester, so that's where the money for two came from."
Another station was funded by a grant from William and Mary's committee on sustainability and one was funded by campus coffee shop The Daily Grind.
The total cost was $4,500 for four stations equipped with air pumps, tools and a QR code students can scan with their smartphone to obtain bike maintenance instructions. Stations will be located at Jamestown dorms, Botetourt Complex, The Daily Grind and the parking deck.
"Twenty to 30 percent of William and Mary students have bikes on campus," Morey said, citing a 2012 parking and transportation services survey. "That's about 2,100 bikes."
The committee believes encouraging bikers and enlisting more could be the solution to many parking issues. The group created a bike-specific map of campus for current riders and a class for potential converts.
Introduction to Cycling will be a one-credit, six-week class taught by Dr. Alan Turnbull, former adjunct professor of psychology at William and Mary. Morey and Buch wrote the initial curriculum and Morey said William and Mary is one of a few schools in the nation to offer cycling courses for credit. The universities of South Carolina, Nebraska and Michigan have programs similar to William and Mary's.
Each week students will spend one day in the classroom studying bike history and safety and practicing maintenance on "cadaver bikes." They will spend the other day putting knowledge to the road on group bike rides.
"Williamsburg does a good job of making the city a bike friendly place to live," Morey said, adding roads like Monticello Avenue make for an easy ride to New Town. "We're just trying to make the best use of what we have."
Buch is an economics major and Morey is studying public policy. He intends to work in the public sector and has considered the idea of running for office in the future.
The Bike Initiative's ultimate, long-term goal is a bike share and on-campus bike shop.
"Universities that have established a ride-share program also always have an on-campus bike shop," Morey said. "You really can't do one without the other, they are symbiotic."
The project still is in the early stages of development, so the Bike Initiative is unsure if there will be a fee to use the ride share. It will depend on if they contract out to a company or do it themselves. They also are researching whether the bike shop should be run by another local bike store, staffed by students, or volunteer based.
Last week Morey and Buch attended a Historic Area Bicycle Committee meeting to request support and involvement from members.
"I hope they get involved with future planned rides," Morey said. "It would be great to have some experienced cyclists join us to offer tips and advice."
Morey encourages the entire greater Williamsburg community to reach out.
"Come to our bike sale on Sept 6," he said, "We're trying to get a band and food. Also, just keep encouraging businesses and government to support local infrastructure and maintain a cycling friendly city."