Bike to Campus Day puts wheels in motion


Wu Caiyi | Staff Photographer

Bike vendors and organizations from around the Pittsburgh and Oakland area came to Pitt’s first fall Bike to Campus Day.

By Natalie Frank, For The Pitt News

Samantha Juedemann loves biking to class in the morning — even after the time she got hit by a car while cycling.

The car accident led her to work at the Pitt Bike Cave, the student-run co-op bicycle repair shop. On Wednesday, she was out with other employees of the Bike Cave at the Posvar pass-through for Pitt’s fall Bike to Campus Day, encouraging other members of the Pitt community to bike for their commutes.

“For me, it’s a nice way to wake up before class,” Juedemann, a senior civil engineering major said. “Walking, you don’t get the full adrenaline rush. And Pitt’s super friendly toward bikes.”

The collection of tents, tables and bikes by Posvar Hall Wednesday morning for Bike to Campus Day was evidence of Pitt’s bike-friendliness. Along with the Bike Cave, a number of organizations including Bike Pittsburgh and the bike-sharing company Healthy Ride had tables at the event. Community members who stopped by could test out an electric bike, register their bikes with the Pitt police and generally learn about the biking resources offered around Pitt’s campus.

Nick Goodfellow, Pitt’s sustainability coordinator for the department of business and auxiliary services, was in charge of the event. “Bike to Work Day,” a nationally celebrated day, is not until the month of May. But Goodfellow said he found it important to celebrate the cycling culture here at Pitt in the busy months of September and October. And the Posvar pass-through, introduced last year as a cut-through option for cyclists, seemed like the perfect place to center the event.

“It’s the center of cycling on campus, so that’s why we wanted to put the event here,” Goodfellow said.

The high number of students and general traffic here at Pitt can make for a more intimidating atmosphere for cyclists, Goodfellow said, especially on the busy streets of Forbes and Fifth avenues.

“Even for me, an experienced cyclist, it’s pretty intimidating,” Goodfellow said. “[But the pass-through] offers folks biking to and from Oakland and campus a safe alternative to Forbes and Fifth.”

Goodfellow said more people have used on-campus bike racks in recent years, though the University doesn’t know the exact number of cyclists around campus. The City has installed more bike lanes as well, including recently-completed stretches that connect the Pitt and CMU campuses.

“There’s been a huge increase in the number of cyclists,” Goodfellow said. “We have these great separated bike lanes, so people feel confident that they’re not going to be jostling with cars to get to and from campus.”

The student-run Bike Cave, a co-op tucked under Posvar Hall, was created several years ago to offer students an on-campus space for bicycle repair. During the event, students stopped by the Bike Cave to get help fixing their bicycles or pick up parts for them.

Also at the event was the bike-sharing company Healthy Ride, which has already partnered with Pitt. This year, Healthy Ride offered a free membership to all incoming first-year students, giving them unlimited 30-minute rides during their first year at Pitt.

Healthy Ride also partnered with another vendor at the event, Bike Pittsburgh — a bike and pedestrian advocacy group which started about 20 years ago. Bike Pittsburgh not only offers elaborate online and physical maps of the biking paths in and around Pittsburgh, but also spreads awareness for bike safety on and off campus.

A sampling of the many bike-related and bike-friendly amenities in and around Oakland.

Dave Sobal, who works with Bike Pittsburgh, was at the event passing out information about the organization and answering questions about “anything bike-related,” he said.

“Our mission is to make Pittsburgh a more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly city,” he said.

Bike safety was a major topic at the “Bike to Campus Day” event, with the Pitt police also occupying a spot in the pass-through. Sergeant Mark Villasenor from the Pitt police offered helpful tips to cyclists regarding how to safely cycle around campus. He recommended using a U-lock instead of a chain lock and using safety gadgets like attachable bicycle lights, which Villasenor and his fellow officers were handing out.

Another officer demonstrated how Pitt police use the two new battery-powered e-bikes in its fleet, describing them as faster than regular bikes and allowing officers to seem more “approachable” than if they were patrolling in cars.

Students could also register their bicycles with Pitt police in case of theft. International development graduate student Juliana Bernardino, who registered her bike at the event, said she wishes to see some changes in the Pittsburgh cycling community.

“I wish there were more bicycle lanes,” she said.

Bernardino was one of the relatively small number of students who stopped by the event, but Goodfellow said he was glad to hold the event at a busier time of the year.

“We really wanted to celebrate biking to campus while students were still biking around,” he said.