Fostering a Biking Culture

October 13, 2015

One of many Bike Alliance group rides!

One of many Bike Alliance group rides!

~by Sophia Palia, Class of 2018, Bike Alliance Event Planner and Secretary

Before college, I never really used to bike that much. It was only the day before I left for the seven-hour road trip from New Jersey down to Williamsburg did I decide that I was going to even bring my bike. And I couldn’t be more thankful that I did. That one decision has created opportunities that have helped make my experience at William & Mary so great and meaningful.

As a freshman last Fall, I saw the advertisement for the first Bike Alliance group ride to Yogurtini and thought to myself, “Hey, fro yo, I should go yo!” It was supposed to be a short ride, only about 5 miles. We met at the Ukrop parking deck and I was the only student who showed up. But along with Rich Thompson, staff and co-founder of the Bike Alliance, and Gabriel Morey, current president of the Bike Alliance, we biked over 25 miles. We explored the area, riding on the Colonial Parkway, the Virginia Capital Trail, passing gorgeous greenery, and having a blast.

As a nascent student organization, the Bike Alliance started out a little bumpy. But through working hard and learning from past events, we have gained incredible support and momentum. Our group rides this semester have had record-breaking turnouts and we have many more exciting new events and ideas for the future.

So, what exactly is the Bicycle Alliance? We are a group of students, staff, administrators, and faculty that promote a bicycle-friendly William and Mary through infrastructure and education.

In only two years, we have definitely made a visible impact on the bicycling culture at W&M and in the larger Williamsburg community. We host monthly casual group bike rides which are a phenomenal way to introduce people to places that are right in our backyard and accessible by bike. This past September, we led a ride to Newtown and Monticello Marketplace so students could see how to bike to these places.  In addition to these larger rides, we run weekly Wednesday night group rides at 5:15PM, meeting at the Sadler Terrace. These rides range in pace and distance depending on the group that shows up. Last year, we hosted women’s rights’ and cycling advocate Kathryn Bertine for a screening of her documentary Half the Road about the injustices and inequality in women’s cycling.

On the infrastructure side of our mission, we’ve installed fix-it stations around campus that provide students the necessary tools to pump up their tires and fix their bikes. We’ve been upgrading the college with new bike racks, bike lanes, and shared-road signs. We also established a 1-credit educational course through the kinesiology department, KINES 196 Bicycling Basics, to teach bike maintenance, safety, and just have fun biking. We also have worked a great deal with the city to foster the biking culture on campus and in Williamsburg as a whole, for example by helping local businesses install bike racks through the City’s bike rack grant.

All these efforts have contributed to promoting this important bicycling culture on campus and in the community. I had never really realized before how much of an impact biking can have on a community. Whether it is striping a bike lane or adding a fix-it station, it can help produce changes in habit that help our environment, health and well-being, sense of community, and even economic development. The Bike Alliance has impacted many people on campus already, from myself and the other members, to the students who use the bike lanes and fix-it stations. With so much done in the first two years it has existed, I am excited to see what will happen in the next two.

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Check out the Bike Alliance’s Facebook page for information and updates!

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Welcome to Hark Upon the Green! This blog is a shared space for members of the sustainability community at William & Mary to write about sustainability topics on and beyond. If you would like to contribute to the blog, contact Madeleine Boel, Committee on Sustainability Web Assistant, at mgboel@email.wm.edu.
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