Inaugural Bike Day Event Promotes Cycling On and Off Campus

USFSP’s inaugural Bike Day celebrated and promoted cycling in the city.

(April 15, 2019) – May is National Bicycle Month, but on Thursday, April 11 USF St. Petersburg hosted its inaugural Bike Day, a campus event to celebrate and promote cycling in the city. Bike Day brought together local bicycling advocates for bike-themed demonstrations on things like bike safety, maintenance and a pedaling-friendly master plan for Pinellas County. A few hundred students stopped by to participate on their way through campus.

“We are a bike-friendly campus,” said Michelle Penn, Environmental Health and Safety Specialist at USFSP. “We have a lot of bikers and bike-related programs, and as St. Pete becomes more bike friendly, we wanted to pull all that together and showcase the biking culture for our students.”

The city and USFSP has made giant strides, or rather revolutions, in promoting a bike-friendly environment over the years. Numerous bike lanes connect downtown with the university, while bike racks are located all across campus.

The campus was awarded a bronze designation for its bike friendliness from the League of Bike Friendly America in 2017. Three of USFSP’s buildings have also received a Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Guy Van Asten and Michelle Penn discuss campus cycling options with a student.

“Many of our new buildings are LEED complaint.” said Guy Van Asten, Safety and Compliance Officer at USFSP. “Part of LEED compliance is being bike friendly, so these new buildings have showers for bicyclists who ride to campus. They can park their bike in a bike rack and take a shower before work or class.”

Among the groups represented at Thursday’s event were the university’s Student Green Energy Fund, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, St. Petersburg Bike Club and Forward Pinellas, a land use and transportation planning agency that aims to promote more inclusive and sustainable transportation options across the county.

Representatives from Forward Pinellas handed out clip-on bike lights to people who participated in an outreach activity that involved using bouncy balls to “vote” for various transportation initiatives. Options included bicycle/pedestrian infrastructures, construction of a rail system and investment in emerging technologies, such as smart vehicles.

“We’ve had a lot of deep thinkers today,” said Brett Burks, Program Planner for Forward Pinellas. “A lot of people have shown strong support for biking, walking safety and the addition of a rail system. There hasn’t been as much for building more roads for cars.”

Ron Quincel, a bike-enthusiast and former maintenance supervisor for USFSP, was on site to answer any questions students had about bike maintenance.

Representatives from the St. Petersburg Bike Club encouraged potential cyclers to become regular riders.

“St. Pete has great bike shops, but there are a lot simple things you can do yourself to keep your bike in good shape,” he said.

Quincel recommended a checklist for keeping bikes in good shape: “First, keep it clean so you can see when something goes wrong with it. Make sure your tires have the proper air pressure. Check your breaks. Lube the chain. Always wear a helmet.”

Pinellas County takes bicycle and pedestrian safety seriously. Included in the county’s upcoming long-range transportation plan, Advantage Pinellas, is a bike and pedestrian master plan that includes strategic infrastructure and safety policies to help people be more mobile and empower them to leave their car at home. When finalized, the bike and pedestrian master plan will present a strategic way to improve walking and biking options countywide.

The plan will further promote biking on and off campus while creating a more bike-friendly culture and environment, which Van Asten said was an essential goal of Bike Day. People are drawn to and empowered by the freedom of self-propelled transportation. Events like Bike Day give potential cyclers the tools and know-how they need to become regular riders.

“If you just give people a little bit of knowledge, it goes a long way to empowering them to live sustainable and having an enjoyable time with their bike,” he said.