In an effort to increase the percentage of NIH’ers who commute to work by bike from a current 3 percent, NIH recently completed an inventory of its cyclist-friendly amenities, with an eye to making pedaling an even more attractive option.
The Office of Research Facilities surveyed such infrastructure as bike racks (volume and location), showers and lockers and connectivity of the campus to the burgeoning network of local bikeways. The report card came back satisfactory, but with a number of recommendations for improvement.
“We should be making it easier to cycle to work than to drive,” said Dan Wheeland, ORF director, who touted the health benefits of bicycle commuting, its removal of cars from congested local roads and crowded parking lots, its environmental friendliness and even its benefit to NIH patients: they can have more places to park.
No, there wasn’t any snow this past winter. This is a photo of the type of covered bike shelter that will soon debut on the grounds of the recently renovated Bldg. 3.
The ORF survey found that the campus has an adequate number of bike racks (62), but 42 of them are going to be relocated in 5 areas to meet the highest demand. A map of all rack locations is being prepared. NIH is also adding bike shelters in some locations; the recently renovated Bldg. 3 will get one of the first new stand-alone sheltered racks.
There is presently parking for 1,003 bikes on campus. Twice a year, in spring and fall, the NIH Bicycle Commuter Club counts the number of bikes in all campus bike racks. That gives NIH leadership an idea of how many people currently bike to work and helps ORF determine where best to locate racks.
In its survey of changing rooms, ORF identified 84 shower/changing rooms scattered across campus and issued 68 maintenance tickets to address such problems as malfunctioning or missing shower plumbing fixtures, broken lockers and insufficient lighting. In most of these facilities, there are one or two showers and a handful of lockers.
Wheeland acknowledged that more shower facilities are needed on campus and said that current renovations to Bldg. 10’s F-wing will include such facilities on floors 2-13. “We will do the same thing when we renovate the E-wing, if funds are available,” he added. “It will be a priority for all future building renovations on campus.”
The availability of lockers is also a priority for many cyclists. “I was lucky to snag a shower room locker,” said Dr. Calman Prussin, an NIAID investigator who commutes to campus by bike. He said he tripled the number of his bike-commute days when a locker became available.
ORF is also exploring ways to make it easier for cyclists to enter campus by providing alternatives to waiting in vehicle lanes or dismounting and guiding bikes through pedestrian turnstiles, said David Derenick, an ORF project officer.
Last fall, NHLBI facility planner Bobby Klosowski wrote a review of NIH’s bicycling program as part of work towards a master’s degree in urban planning at Catholic University. “There is an enormous opportunity to increase the number of bicycle commuters through a concerted planning effort that aims to create a safe, supportive, reliable bike culture at the NIH,” he wrote.
His report advises NIH to apply to become a Bicycle Friendly Business through the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly America program, which establishes standards of quality in the bike-commuting world. NIH could thereby rank with such outstanding cycle cultures as Stanford University, Oregon Health and Science University and the University of Colorado at Boulder.—Rich McManus