College students attending University are undoubtedly one of the largest groups of bicycle commuters in the US. To date, the League of American Bicyclists have named only 20 bicycle-friendly universities and nearly half of them in California, Oregon and Washington, however, Ball State in Indiana is the latest school following the bike friendly initiative in the Midwest.
Ball State University, which was established in 1918 and has roughly 21,000 students, recently completed construction of a new outdoor pursuits facility, and the hope is that this will meet with some of the League of American Bicyclists’ requirements for a bike-friendly destination.
The new Student Recreation and Wellness Center located in the facility features free daily lockers, showers and towel service for those who commute to campus on their bikes. “Students and university employees do commute to Ball State University. We cannot turn a blind eye to that fact,” Ball State’s sustainability coordinator, Stacy Wheeler, told BikeRadar. “There's a demand for supporting commuter bike programming.”
Ball State's new Student Recreation and Wellness Center; credit: Ball State University
There are only a handful of other bicycle-friendly universities in the Midwest where winters can be long and hard. These schools include Indiana University, the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Michigan State University and University of Wisconsin.
Wheeler believes the new recreation center is a solid step — or pedal stroke — in the effort to add Ball to this list. “Currently, the university's bike-friendly programs are scattered across different campus departments,” says Wheeler. “What we are trying to do is pool these resources together and organize them into a more cohesive unit. Education and outreach for these bike-friendly resources is key, and in my opinion, students and employees need to have greater access to them.”
Wheeler believes the new bike hub, located within Ball State's Outdoor Pursuits facility, will help fill this role.
And while the aforementioned winter weather might be a deterrent to some riders, the Pursuits facility will be a welcome destination when the weather outside is frightful. “Despite the wintery weather in the Midwest, Outdoor Pursuits' Commuter Bike Hub will be open year round to help assist those who want to continue biking in cold, wet, and freezing weather,” said Wheeler. “Ball State does have a dedicated group of students and faculty that choose to bike to campus in the snow and ice. It's important to be ready and have on hand educational resources on how to ride safe through bad weather.”
Wheeler also hopes that proper messaging and use of new media could encourage more students and faculty to pedal to work, both to stay healthy and reduce their impact on the environment during the daily commute.
“The university will be working on developing a social media campaign to encourage biking,” says Wheeler. “The rising popularity of social networking on campus has created a new generation of student engagement. We are hoping our social media campaign will give students a new way to learn about the benefits of biking. At the heart of it, commuter biking will be an important component to the university's work plan to meet its carbon neutrality goals. We are nationally recognized as an eco-friendly campus and we are striving to becoming a bike-friendly campus as well.”