The Zagster bike share, located outside Lehigh's bookstore, promotes eco-friendly travel on campus. Members can borrow a bike for up to four hours at a time. (Alexis McGowan/B&W Staff)

Lehigh encourages biking on campus despite safety concerns

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Stairs, steep hills, sharp corners and the impending cold weather hinder many students from using any mode of transportation other than cars to travel up the Hill.

Ethan Foster, ’20, is a member of the cycling club and, through that group, has access to a bike shed on campus. Though he enjoys biking, Foster said the layout of the campus hinders him from biking more regularly and using it as his primary mode of transportation.

“Lehigh is not a bike-friendly campus, which isn’t because (the community doesn’t) like bikes,” Foster said. “It’s just because it’s so hilly.”

Bob Bruneio, the manager of Lehigh’s Transportation Services, said east to west travel is fine, but South Mountain makes north to south travel difficult.

Foster said the many stairs also make the university challenging to navigate. He ends up using his car more often than his bike.

Kevin Ly, ’19, who has ridden a bike at Lehigh since the beginning of his first year, said he has to be more cautious because there are no specific bike lanes on most roads in the area. He believes the reason why the roads are not biker-friendly is because of the lack of active bikers in the city, as well as the topography of the region.

LTS computing consultant Bill Bettermann bikes seven miles from his home in North Bethlehem to Lehigh two to three times a week, depending on the weather. He agrees there might be a low number of bikers in Bethlehem because he only knows of three other staff members who commute to Lehigh on bike.

“The roads are so narrow and treacherous that it’s difficult to sometimes negotiate those roads,” Bettermann said.

Bettermann believes road safety, especially when it gets dark, is the primary reason why he doesn’t commute more often and why more people don’t use bikes.

Ly said despite safety concerns, there are still several advantages to using a bike on campus. He saves money on a parking permit and has the convenience of finding a parking spot for his bike anywhere on campus.

However, he recommends biking only to students who don’t live high up on the Hill, as going uphill is hard and exhausting, and coming down a steep slope is dangerous.

In 2015, Lehigh implemented the Zagster bike-share program to promote sustainable and healthy transportation for students, faculty and staff. After paying a one-time fee for unlimited trips, users can take a bike for up to four hours at a time.

Bruneio said 169 new members have signed up since the program’s relaunch in March 2016. This is a significant increase from the 27 members who signed up in 2015.

His department is continuously working with Taylor Gym and the Office of Sustainability to increase the number of bikes and bike racks across campus. Bruneio believes the bike-share program has seen an increase in users because of better marketing and a better location.

Bruneio said Transportation Services is working to add more bikes to the program in other spots around campus, as there are only 10 bikes available outside E.W. Fairchild-Martindale Library.

“We are looking at Mountaintop Campus, but we are also looking at the eastern side of campus, like the Rauch Business Center side,” he said.

Additionally, to accommodate bikes coming to campus, Transportation Services installed bike racks on all Lehigh buses so commuters can easily transport their bikes around campus.

The Lehigh area also has mountain bike trails, which serve as an alternative option for members of the Lehigh community who wish to avoid riding on Bethlehem’s roads because of the sometimes unsafe conditions.

Foster encouraged people who are passionate about biking to do so more often at Lehigh.

“It is a challenge, but for people who are into riding bikes I would definitely recommend it because it is a lot of fun,” Foster said.

Bettermann also encouraged others to take on biking, but he said each rider should be familiar with the roads and investigate the area to determine the safest and most practical route.

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