NMSU Pursues Bicycle Friendly University Status
New Mexico State University has taken several steps in recent months to increase safe-bicycling practices on campus, including increasing bicycle traffic law enforcement, educating motorists and cyclists alike about the rules of the road and working to prevent bicycle thefts on campus.
Some of the physical improvements made over the last year include painting bike lanes on Stewart Street, installing directional signs on the Horseshoe, adding and replacing bicycle racks and installing a bicycle Fix-It station outside Corbett Center Student Union.
In May 2012, the NMSU Police Department started issuing citations to cyclists for traffic violations. According to the Environmental Health & Safety Office, the NMSU Police Department issued 409 citations for traffic violations during the period of May 1 to Nov. 28, 2012. Of those, 64 were bicycle-related citations.
The highest single category of citations was failure to heed stop signs and traffic signals.
"Cyclists need to be aware that traffic laws do apply to them, too, but drivers must also be aware of cyclists," said David Shearer, assistant director, NMSU Environmental Health & Safety. "New Mexico traffic law and the New Mexico Driver Manual are clear that bicyclists have the same rights on the streets, but must follow the same 'rules of the road' as motorists."
The NMSU Police Department offers a free bicycle registration service, to record the bicycle serial numbers and markings, which help in recovering a stolen bike.
"Bicycle registration is free, as are most crime prevention programs at the NMSU Police Department," said Amanda Bowen, NMSU Police Department crime prevention coordinator. "Registered bikes are stolen less often and are easier to recover if they are stolen."
To register your bicycle, visit the NMSU Police Department, located at the corner of Union Avenue and College Drive, during normal business hours.
"It's important to focus more on cycling as an element of sustainability: for our environment, our budget and our health," said Jean Conway, cyclist and associate director of the NMSU Teaching Academy. "Bicyclists produce vastly less greenhouse gases than cars to. And, cycling just to get around gets your transportation and exercise rolled all into one activity - it improves your health and saves time. Having healthier and more productive employees saves NMSU money."
On Feb. 5, the NMSU Bicycle Friendly University Taskforce, composed of representatives from the Teaching Academy, NMSU Police Department, Recreational Sports, Environmental Health & Safety and NMSU faculty, in support of the goals of the Sustainability Council and Bicycle Safety Committee, submitted an application for NMSU to be recognized as a Bicycle Friendly University, a designation granted by the League of American Bicyclists. In order to achieve this status, however, more on-campus bicycling-focused changes will be necessary.
"Bicycle Friendly University status is a healthy goal to work towards," said Shearer. "We know that there are some areas where we can improve, for example, designating bike lanes, street marking and regular bicyclist classes."
The City of Las Cruces was granted Bicycle Friendly Community Bronze status in 2011, after three applications to the League of American Cyclists and several improvements to make cycling safer for everyone. Though NMSU does not expect to receive BFU status on its first attempt, feedback from the League of American Bicyclists will help the campus make improvements for future applications.
The League of American Cyclists evaluates Bicycle Friendly applicants on "the Five Es" - engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation and planning. The 74-section questionnaire covers information on employee and student numbers, geographic distribution and NMSU's current status in the Five Es.
"We still have a lot of work do to in the areas of education and encouragement," said Conway. "There are far too many cyclists on campus who aren't aware that bicycles are considered vehicles and that cyclists must obey vehicular laws just like a car. NMSU also needs a systematic way to evaluate cycling issues and develop a master plan for cycling."
Environmental Health & Safety has placed several resources for both cyclists and others on campus on the NMSU bicycle page, bikes.nmsu.edu, including a campus map including bike paths, lanes and racks; information about recent bicycle traffic citations and safety information. This resource also contains information about upcoming bicycle-related training events.
For more information about NMSU's Bicycle Friendly University initiatives please check the bikes.nmsu.edu website, and for bicycle safety concerns or suggestions email David Shearer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I'd encourage everyone interested in cycling to learn how to ride safely, then get out and ride," Conway added.