By Patrick Kane
As president of the Cycling Club at VCU, Alan Hartmann has an eye for all things two-wheeled.
“Everywhere I look, I see something that encourages cycling,” he said. “I’ve been very impressed with VCU’s desire to have safe cyclists.”
The League of American Bicyclists agrees, awarding Virginia Commonwealth University silver-level recertification as a Bicycle Friendly University. VCU is the highest-ranked Virginia college or university under this program.
“We are very pleased to reach the silver-level distinction yet again, while still holding the highest rating of any university in the state of Virginia,” said Craig Willingham, fleet and interim transportation manager in the Office of Parking and Transportation. “The certification process is not easy, which is why I am proud of our team’s efforts and dedication to this process.”
VCU was first certified in 2012, and improved to silver in 2014.
RamBikes, part of Parking and Transportation, is a major contributor to VCU’s cycling culture. RamBikes offers a workshop at 201 N. Belvidere St., where students, faculty and staff can work on their bicycles and receive help from technicians. Technicians also conduct bike safety classes, group rides, maintenance clinics and safety checks. RamBikes also oversees the university’s bike share program, housed near the Cabell and Tompkins-McCaw libraries.
Hartmann cites the Outdoor Adventure Program as another campus resource supporting cyclists of all abilities and experience levels.
“If someone’s going to say they can’t ride a bike on this campus, it’s because they haven’t tried,” he said.
The nomination process included a community survey, published in TelegRAM, on the RamBikes website and shared on social media.
“We applaud this round of BFUs for raising the standard and being innovative in making bicycling a safe, convenient and enjoyable option for students, staff and visitors alike,” said Bill Nesper, programs director for the League of American Bicyclists.
“It means that we’re working together to make cycling safe and fun in the Richmond area.”
VCU cycling club members compete in the racing disciplines of mountain biking, cyclocross and road cycling, but also host weekly rides starting on campus. One matches the pace of the slowest participant, making it relaxed and all-inclusive. They also advocate for opportunities for all athletes in what is generally a male-dominated sport.
“We’re trying to break down some of the barriers that, for a long time, cycling has had up,” Hartmann said. The award is “a great draw for the campus and it’s a huge compliment to the students and the school. It means that we’re working together to make cycling safe and fun in the Richmond area.”
“We will continue to build on this momentum and work to create an even larger bike culture here at VCU,” Willingham said.
The certification speaks to VCU’s commitment to alternative transportation options for those traveling on and off campus, said Erin Stanforth, VCU’s director of sustainability.
“We are extremely proud to have this recognition. It further cements our commitment to alternative transportation,” she said. Parking and Transportation staff led the recertification process.
VCU’s Sustainability Plan outlines support for cycling and cycling infrastructure as a mean of reducing single-occupancy vehicle use. VCU also earned a silver rating from the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating Systemin 2015, earning two of two possible points in the Support for Sustainable Transportation category.
VCU hosted the Bicycle Urbanism Symposium II in fall 2015, which focused on the urban planning, public policy and wellness ties cycling.
Perhaps the biggest event on two wheels hit campus last fall, the Richmond 2015 UCI road cycling championships. It drew hundreds of international cyclists to the city and inspired several cycling-themed 1-credit courses at VCU.
“I believe that the bike race really heightened awareness of alternative transportation, specifically bicycling, in Richmond,” Stanforth said. “Many neighbors, in and around VCU, are more comfortable with active cycling on a continuous basis.”
Hartmann said drivers across Richmond are aware of cyclists, which encourages more people to ride.
“We’re trying to bridge that gap to let everyone have a say at the table, and talk about the safety issues involved,” he said. “Richmond has a huge cycling community, and they are very supportive for each other and set good examples.”
The city of Richmond, which encompasses both of VCU’s campuses, is itself rated as a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community. Current citywide plans include 10 potential projects to improve roads for cycling and pedestrian use.