Fresno State may be on it way to a bikeshare system, thanks to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program. The university received the program’s Bikeshare Planning tool, which will offer technical know-how and support in creating bike sharing.
This is awesome news for bicycle enthusiasts and commuters. It puts Fresno on a list that includes cities like Washington, D.C., New York, Indianapolis and San Jose.
There is no money involved, says Thomas Gaffery, Fresno State’s parking and transportation manager, but this is a first step to getting a bikeshare program up and running.
This isn’t the first attempt at bikesharing on the campus.
Some will no doubt remember the school’s Red Bike program, or at least the poorly painted mountain bikes that showed up around campus. I do.
That program was halted because it wasn’t serving student needs, Gaffery says. The university has used those resources to bolster infrastructure for those who already commute to campus via bicycles.
That includes installing three bike barns that are fenced and secure and accessible only with student or employee ID cards. There are also several repair stations around campus. Gaffery’s department also patrols the campus looking for bicycles that are vulnerable to theft and leaves warnings notes for the owners.
More than that, the university has secured funding from San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District and Caltrans to create bikeways along Barstow Avenue.
From the university’s standpoint, any alternative to driving is worth fostering. Fresno State is a commuter campus with parking options that are limited and expensive. Ask any student. Ever.
While more than 10% of students live within a mile of campus, many still drive and park, Gaffrey says. A bikeshare program could change that.
There is a larger good here, too, says Gil Harootunian, the director of university initiatives, who helped draft the EPA grant.
“The entire effort is about social justice, on all levels,” she says.
Fresno has such a strong car culture, it is easy to forget that not everyone owns a car. Not everyone drives.
In the El Dorado Park neighborhood, near campus, less than 20% of the households have cars. Depending on where you live in the neighborhood, it can be a half-mile walk to the nearest bus stop, which might seem doable, until you think about having to lug around something like a bag of groceries. A bicycle with a basket would make that trip easier.
I realize Fresno is not Davis. The city runs 112 square miles. Bicycles are far from viable transportation in large parts of the city. But there are pockets of town that could surely benefit.
Fresno State is the obvious choice and a great start.
“If it is successful here, you can clone it in different locations,” Gaffery says.
The Tower District and downtown could be next.
And while the city of Fresno has no plans for a bikeshare program of its own, alternative transportation (including bicycles) is part of the vision of the city’s general plan, says Scott Mozier, the city’s public works director.
Before you start raving about bikeshare being some kind of government social engineering, I’ll emphasize the word “part.”
This is not about getting people to give up their cars, Mozier says. “It’s creating the option. There are some obvious benefits to people who do make that choice.”