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Bicycling and Higher Education

This week, Kim Arline, Jan Dudley, Cathy Dehn and I attended Dr. Jeff Stuyt's Leadership & Ethics Class at CSU-P to offer guidance to the students for their projects which will assess and attempt to improve walkability and bikeability on campus. In order to better understand various modes of transportation a student could use to get from Pueblo to campus, I decided to ride to the Pueblo Transit station, then take my bicycle on the bus up to campus. The cost is cheap, $1 per ride, plus a free transfer! Buses #9 and #10 leave at :00 and :30 and arrive on campus at :55 and :25. That doesn't allow students much time to get from the bus stop to their classes, which start on the hour or half hour. Especially since 2 of the northern most campus bus stops have been discontinued due to a lack of use (according to the driver). Plenty of people were using the bus this day, the overnight snow made for some great window scenery as I kicked back and let someone else do the navigating. Everybody got off the bus before the campus stop, and not a single student was on that bus. I figured maybe everyone just rode their bicycles or walked to campus, but I soon realized that the automobile was the dominant mode of transportation for CSU-P students. The quantity and availability of bicycle racks didn't seem to be an issue, as all of them were empty. Some of the racks were poorly located and not easy to find, and I ended up locking up to a hand rail. Theft didn't seem to be an issue, as this bicycle apparently spent the night out in the snow locked to the same hand rail.
Kim gave an amazing and very motivational presentation to the students, then we broke into small groups that would asses different aspects of bikeability and walkability on campus. The overall consensus was that infrastructure and safety weren't really an issue yet and the focus should be on increasing the amount of students using alternative modes of transportation to get to campus. My group had some good ideas about how to make that happen. Ideas about offering incentives to students that didn't bring their car to campus, raising car parking rates, holding various events that promoted and recognized alternative transportation users, starting and promoting a bicycle share program, and generally marketing bicycling and walking as being cool. The biggest deterrent for most of the students from using alternative forms of transportation was the fact that CSU-P is very physically disconnected from the city. I learned that back when the school was established, they had the choice of starting the university at the already existing Pueblo Community College location in central Pueblo, or in it's current location which is about 10 miles from the center of town. Apparently the baron wasteland that couldn't be sold to anyone else, was donated to the university and they decided to build in the current location. So they started a university in a location that was undesirable and unsellable to anyone else, but thought it would be a good place to have students???? Our group brainstormed of ways to eliminate the dis-connectivity of the university with the rest of Pueblo since physically moving the town or the university isn't really an option. The establishment and promotion of park-n-rides or frequent shuttles in Pueblo West, Central Pueblo, and even Colorado Springs seemed like logical resolutions that would allow people to ride or walk from their home to the shuttle or park-n-ride. I feel that first, a total culture change needs to take place before any sort of infrastructure project could be successful. The reason why people are so tied to the american dream of having and abusing the use of their cars is because they have been bombarded with television, magazine and radio advertisements that make cars seem cool. So in my opinion, the only way to change that mindset is to fight back with a bombardment of bicycle friendly propaganda.

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