Wisconsin students who bike to class have good reason to — the League of American Bicyclists granted three UW System campuses new ratings as Bicycle Friendly Universities last week.
The league — the oldest and only grassroots bicycle advocacy organization — gave UW-Stevens Point a bronze rating, UW-Milwaukee a gold rating and UW-Madison a platinum rating, all awarded for having varying levels of a bikeable campus and bicycle programming. As of 2019, 212 universities are currently rated.
The UW System currently has six campuses rated bicycle-friendly by the league, but only UW-Stevens Point, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison received new ratings for 2019. UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse and UW-Stout received bronze ratings, UW-Milwaukee renewed its gold rating. UW-Madison improved from gold to platinum and UW-Stevens Point improved from honorable mention to bronze.
UW-Madison’s platinum rating, the highest granted to campuses, marks universities that “have a comfortable and safe bike network, excellent bike parking, great bike education programs, a supportive police force and just people on bikes everywhere,” according to the league’s website.
Only eight universities nationwide currently have the platinum rating.
“We are very proud of what UW–Madison has achieved in order to upgrade from gold to platinum level,” Director of UW Transportation Services Patrick Kass said in a press release. “A strong bicycling infrastructure encourages positive health and environmental choices and is essential to helping reduce motor vehicle traffic and demand for parking.”
Facilities that helped upgrade UW-Madison to platinum status included automated bike counters to improve transportation data, Highland Avenue’s upgraded bicycle crossing, 15,605 bike parking stalls, 10 “air and repair” stations, the University Bicycle Resource Center, bike parking during football games and the Elm Street Bike Shelter, which will open soon, the release said.
Officials at UW-Milwaukee were also proud to maintain their gold rating — which the league describes as universities with “strong bike cultures” — but still needing additional accessibility in bike networks or a wider reach in bicycling education.
“To renew at a gold level this year meant not only maintaining the programs that brought [UW-Milwaukee] to gold, but also meant that we were expected to build on our success,” Sustainability Director Kate Nelson said in a press release.
UW-Milwaukee collaborated with the City of Milwaukee to provide safe streets for biking leading into campus, and the university’s shared governance committee endorsed a study to plan for better bike routes and parking, Nelson said.
While UW-Stevens Point received the lowest of the four available ratings, the league says “important steps are being taken” in all evaluated areas — engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation.
“This recognition reflects hard work and multiple hours of commitment by students, faculty, and staff to help increase bike visibility as an important transportation and recreational resource on our campus and in our community," Sustainability Coordinator Dave Barbier said in a press release.
The university formed a Campus Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Task Force in 2016 and adopted a Campus Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan last spring. Related campus improvements include a bike repair and air pump station near the Dreyfus University Center, two covered bike parking structures and a university website for biking information.
Campuses that invest in biking not only strengthen community connections but also decrease their carbon footprints and reduce health-care costs, according to the league.
“By meeting one of the four award levels, universities and colleges demonstrate a commitment not only to fostering academic achievements, but also to developing model environments where people can safely bike and contribute to healthier, more sustainable outcomes,” League of American Bicyclists Executive Director Bill Nesper said in a statement.