Description of topic
Biking is not the most popular modes of transport; at least not in Maryland. My curiosity on why people do not use bicycles yet they live in very short distance from work got me to start on a research that dig deeper on the cause. I grew up in a bike riding community where people ride bikes to school, to work or to the market. The biggest shock after moving to Maryland was discovering that only a few people ride to their destination. It did not take me long to discover that the bicycle trails do not exist in the local maps or within Maryland University. This was definitely one of the reasons people did not ride. After taking my survey and interviewing several people I realized that lack of a local reference on bike trails was a major issue. People cannot necessarily move around without direction. Therefore I suggest the bike trails to be put on maps so that they help the biking population to navigate their way to Maryland University and its surroundings safely.
Non Academic research
In order to understand the cycling culture in Maryland University, I did a research with the guidance of a few questions. The first question that I had to get an answer to was, “How many people are aware that bike trails exist within Maryland?” The Department of Transport has been on the forefront encouraging people to ride within the campus rather than bring vehicles. It therefore did not surprise me to realize that majority of people already know that bike trails exist. 4 out of 5 people responded positively while the rest were not interested in taking a bike to the campus or work.
With such a positive response I was motivated to research on the next question that probably would explain why they were reluctant to take bikes within campus. This next question carried a lot of weight with it and although answers varied from one person to the other; there was a common streak .My question was; “Why aren’t people using the bike trails if at all they exist?” The response I got prompted me to research on the solution right away. People did not know how to go about the trails. They did not know how to navigate through safely till they reach their destination. Maryland University is surrounded by very busy roads especially Route 1. Without proper reference on the safest trails navigation, one is in danger of being hit by a car.
The third question that I had to research on was “what can make people more confident in riding as a form of transport in Maryland University?” 2 out of 3 people proposed the mapping of bike tracks that connect most trails to the university as well as around university. This could be the reason why most people do not necessarily use bikes to the University because they do not have a source of credible information on the directions that the bike tracks should go.
According to the British Medical Association; there are numerous benefits that riders have over those who take vehicles. I came across this information when researching on the benefits that cyclers have over those who do not ride. It is important to not only seek to have a mapped track but also to sensitize people on the health benefits that cycling will have in their lives. In John F’s book on effective cycling (1993) he states that cycling should not only be a form of transport but a form of recreation and enjoyment. Lack of tracks on the map not only makes people to opt for easier means of transport such as vehicles, they also miss out on these benefits. In addition to this; the cardio-respiratory health is improved not to mention the benefits that it has on their skin. My research on how Maryland University will benefit from a culture of riding bikes brought about even more benefits. Bicycles unlike vehicles do not emit any fumes thus they are eco friendly (John, 1993). This means that if 6 out of at least 10 people decide to be cycling to the university; there will be purer air within the university. The main vision that DOTS has on transportation is to make UMD a model Green University and this would turn out to be the case.
I also found out that majority of the people within the university live at close distance with at most 3 miles or so to cover (Ray, 2002). This is a very reasonable distance to ride a bike. Although some people claimed that they cannot use the bicycles even after the mapping of trails; majority are willing to change the mode of transport if there is a credible reference that can guide them safely from one point to the other.
Creating a map is not going to be easy at all but it will be worth the trouble and the time (Ray, 2002). According to Stewart (2002), bicycles and walking are the most neglected forms of transport. There are clear reasons why this is the case. For instance, the roads are usually clearly marked in such a way that even strangers can navigate through like the local people without getting lost. There is always a sign that is showing you to take a right or a left. I believe this should be the same case for the bicycles. Any stranger should be able to navigate in a new bike trail without getting himself into danger. Some form of seriousness need to be used when addressing this issue and I definitely believe that it starts with the people who have the influence on this sector to take charge and have the bike trails on the map.
Interesting & Disappointing
Interestingly; for the few people who get to use bicycles on a daily basis like myself; the one challenge that one faces is to get a faster quicker and safer route all at the same time to and from your destination (Stewart,2002). This can be quite exhausting especially if one is not used to it. This is probably the reason why majority of the people in MD do not use the bicycles. It is not to them the best option. Of course there are applications that show the trails and for anyone who is not familiar with the area they can use them (Ray, 2002). These are MapMyRun and Google maps. However as one continues to use them, you discover that they do not necessarily have the safest routes for the cyclists.
Having the bicycle trails around and within the UMD on the map will encourage many people to opt for the bicycle as the most favorable form of transport because it will give them only the safe routes (John, 1993). Majority of the people in UMD leave within 5 miles or even less than 5 miles. This is a reasonable distance to ride a bicycle and still get to the campus on time rather than pay the UMD parking fee and still pay for the gas.
Majority of people who would love to take a bicycle to the University are either too busy doing other things that have a higher priority; not necessarily trying to find bicycle tracks. It would only be fair to have such tracks on one central place of reference where everyone gets to find out the safest route to and from where they are going. Since it can be quite tiring to actually ride and find bicycle tracks for many people; having them in one central place seems to be the next best thing to do. Having clearly marked bicycle trails will eliminate this uncertainty which to some extent mean life or death. When more people start riding the bicycles within the campus instead of driving vehicles, the benefits will be numerous. It is amazing what a three mile cycling can do to any cyclist or to the environment. If this number was increased, definitely we can be breathing more pure air and having a healthy body. This will create a healthy environment for everyone as well as cultivating a healthy culture where people exercise as they go about their destinations.
The committee in charge of transport within the campus has planned to ensure that there is less vehicle congestion within the campus. This has been effective by increasing the parking fee. Other methods of reaching the campus are encouraged such as walking, bicycling or use of the transit. Although there have been a few cases of the friction between cyclists and the pedestrians, the reports have not been credible enough since bike tracks and those of pedestrians are two different routes. By all costs, introduction of bike trails on the map will help in a major way to move the project of bike riding forward.
This will bring a lot of benefits both to the cyclers and to the environment. First of all it will save those who use vehicles a lot of money. This includes the parking fees within the UMD, the fuel money as well as insurance. Just like me the car’s shelf life will be longer because it is not being used every day. Secondly it will be of great benefit to any cycler’s health because it will act as a daily form of exercise. Lastly it will contribute to a very healthy environment because it does not use any form of fuel thus does not have fuel emissions. These are all great benefits that are not too far out of reach. All the people need is a reliable source that they can refer to for a safe route that will not involve endangering their lives and a clear route that is visible to everybody including motorists so that they can also get to know that it is bike tracks thus drive with caution. This is not so difficult to do therefore the dream of being a model for a Green University is not impossible.
Unfortunately throughout my research I could not find any book or map that has clear marked trails within or around the campus. People are willing to take a ride to town or to the library from their homes but the risk becomes too much to handle and they opt to take a vehicle instead. Therefore it is my suggestion to the DOTS and to the Committee of Transport to consider having the bike trails on the map.
It would not be enough to increase the number of tracks or the number of bike parking without letting people understand know how to navigate through via maps. Therefore having the tracks on the maps should be the next goal that the committee should consider on their list. It will not only encourage more people to ride to and from university; it will create a riding culture which is strong enough to pass through generations.
- Ben H.,Bicycling , (2006) 1,000 All-Time Top Tips for Cyclists: Top Riders Share Their Secrets to Maximise Fun, Safety and Performance,Rodale Press – Cycling
- British M. A., (1992), British Medical Association,Wiley Printing Press – Medical
- David G. W. (2004), Bicycling Science,Mit Press, – Science
- John F. (1993), Effective Cycling,MIT Press- Sports & Recreation
- Ray H. (Jan 1, 2002), Maryland Trails and Ride Journal,American Bike Trails- Print.
- Stewart A. G.,(2002)Reasons why Bicycling and Walking are and are Not Being Used More Extensively as Travel Modes,Federal Highway Administration – Bicycle commuting