Sunday, August 03, 2008

This is soooo COOL!

I am very, very impressed by the sort of actions being taken by UVic to encourage biking to the campus. Back when I was at UVic (1983-89) biking was not very common. I biked about 1/4 of the time and that was unusual at the time.

Here is an article from the Saanich News

UVic commits to keep cars off campus

From rust-buckets to antique European-styled bicycles, the volunteer mechanics with the University of Victoria's Spokes program see it all.

The four lead mechanics, aided by a team of 40 volunteers, are working hard to fix their fleet of used bicycles to match them up with needy students and staff.

Spokes was launched in 2003 and has since loaned out 1,000 bicycles for a one-year term.

The program has 350 bicycles currently in circulation but expects another 50 applications come September. The bikes are all donated by community and arrive in all states of repair.

Some go strait to recycling, some have salvageable parts and others arrive in need of just a bit of work, says Branden Rishel whose been volunteering as a mechanic for over two years.

He says he likes the work because, unlike his day job with Victoria's Car Share Co-op, Spokes lets him get his hands dirty.

He also loves teaching the other volunteers how to fix their own bikes.

"It's wonderful to see them take apart of set of brakes and see how it all works," he said.

An exit survey of bike recipients indicates 85 per cent want to buy their own bicycle for commuting, said Sarah Webb, campus sustainability co-ordinator.

According to the last transit audit conducted by the university in 2006, six per cent of students and staff bike to campus, she said. The number has been slowly rising since it dropped from almost nine per cent in 1998 when UVic introduced the UPASS program, providing all students with a bus pass.

Spokes is part the University's strategy to reduce traffic congestion on campus. Every year UVic spends $325,000 on its Travel Choices Program, encouraging cycling, walking, ride sharing, car sharing and transit. It also contributes $170,000 towards UPASS.

UVic's commitment to reducing car traffic is fueled by more than environmentalism. It's also to keep a promise made to Saanich council in return for relaxed parking requirements on campus.

In 2006, Saanich council allowed UVic to forgo 254 parking spaces, normally required, when it built it's new science building.

The vote wasn't unanimous, however.

Coun. Wayne Hunter cautioned UVic may one day discontinue it's commitment to alternate transit. Meanwhile, Coun. Jackie Ngai argued the future will inevitably bring more cars to campus.

For now, UVic's still on track.

"Our traffic audits are proof in the pudding," said Webb. "Since 1996, our campus population has increased by 19 per cent, but when you actually look at traffic volumes, they've decreased by 17 per cent."

Annual parking pass sales have also dropped from 5,606 during the 2001-2001 school year to 4,157 last year.

In 2006, 40 per cent of students and staff cycled, walked, roller-bladed or took transit to campus. The next audit results are due in October.

rholmen@saanichnews.com

Did you know?

In September, UVic is planning to open a self-serve bike kitchen for anyone to use. The station will offer an air station and basic bike repair tools for students, staff and other cyclists commuting through campus. It will be located by the bus loop.

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