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NMSU pedaling into the New Year toward health, safety

New Mexico State University celebrated its achievement as a “Bicycle Friendly University” by putting up its first sign on campus in December. The Bicycle Friendly University Taskforce has plans to improve conditions in 2015 for cyclists at NMSU and its surrounding areas.

Bike tire with students in background
Students and bicycles populate the International Mall. (NMSU Photo by Darren Phillips)

NMSU earned the bronze level designation from the League of American Bicyclists, which recognizes amenities such as good bike access to public transportation, arterial streets with bike lanes and bicycle skills classes among other things.

“The Bike Friendly University Program with the League of American Bicyclists is fairly new,” said Jean Conway, co-chair of NMSU’s Bicycle Friendly University Taskforce and associate director of The Teaching Academy at NMSU. “We have become one of the top 100 universities designated as bicyclist friendly although, bicycle events have been going on at NMSU for a long time.”

The League of American Bicyclists evaluates Bicycle Friendly applicants on "the Five Es" - engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation and planning. They use a 74-section questionnaire covering information on employee and student numbers, geographic distribution and NMSU's current status in these areas.

“A lot of our students cycle, but it’s not just a student thing. It can be a lifestyle choice,” said Melody Munson-McGee, a planning officer in NMSU’s student affairs and enrollment management. “Many members of faculty and staff biked as students, and some of us just never gave that up, or like me, we returned to it when cycling fit better into our lives. College towns tend to have infrastructure like bike lanes and support of a good bike shop, in addition to a population that is accustomed to sharing the road with cyclists.”

NMSU currently has more than 2,000 slots for parking bikes throughout campus, extended bicycle lanes, two Fix-It repair stations for cyclists to complete a number of tasks, safety courses, a full-service bike shop located in the activity center and an opportunity for bicycle rentals.

NMSU’s Bicycle Friendly University Taskforce includes representatives from the university’s faculty, teaching academy, police department, recreational sports and environmental health and safety department. They are always looking for new ways to make the campus bike friendly.

David Shearer, co-chair of the taskforce and assistant director of NMSU’s environmental health and safety department, has started a petition to add more Fix-It stations around bicycle-dense areas on campus. The taskforce continues to take suggestions on the location appropriateness of racks. Goals include a bicycle rental program, cycling education, and a designated bike path along McFie Circle, with the new undergraduate learning center construction.

Task force members say commuting to NMSU and bicycling on campus can be a sustainable, health conscious and easy mode of transportation.

“A bicyclist on the road is considered a vehicle,” Conway said. “They obey the same laws as drivers of cars. As a cyclist that means you ride in the rightmost lane, going in the direction of traffic, obeying signs, and being visible and predictable.”

“It’s great exercise, you get great parking spots; for me though, it gives me a lot of time to think,” Munson-McGee said. “The whole idea of letting your brain go while your body is doing something else is pretty powerful. It puts things on a different pace.”

For tips on bicycling and upcoming events, visit the NMSU Biking Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/NMSU-Bicycling/608399355942458 or http://bikes.nmsu.edu/