Virginia is known for scenic roadways, but when it comes to alternative modes of transportation, such as commuting by bicycle, it ranks near the bottom nationwide.
Class change at Virginia Tech transforms the bucolic campus into something that looks more like a busy urban center with buses, cars and pedestrians all trying to get by.
But some people seem to make better time. “I ride my bike to school. I ride my bike because it saves gas and it’s much easier than the bus because you can leave a lot later and get to class on time," says Sarah Erdel, a junior studying industrial systems engineering and French. But Erdel is in the minority.
Statistics show that men are 5 times more likely to commute by bike than women are. And Virginia is thirty-third in the nation overall when it comes to taking your bike to work or school. Efforts are underway to increase those numbers. The town of Blacksburg is working a master plan for biking due out in a few months. And Virginia Tech just opened its new alternative transportation center. Starting today, a bike mechanic will be on duty there to help cyclists.
“So students faculty and staff can come in for one on one maintenance sessions with the mechanic so the mechanic will take them through everything they’re doing so they learn bike repair while they’re getting their bikes fixed," says Kitty Zerangue, Virginia Tech’s new Bike Program Coordinator.
And even though the new bike maintenance hub is geared for students and faculty, they won’t turn anyone away. Working with the mechanic is free of charge, but any parts needed for the repairs will have to be purchased, ideally from local bike shops in Blacksburg.
Debby Freed, Alternative Transportation Coordinator at Virginia Tech says it’s part of an effort with the town of Blacksburg to make the area more bike friendly.
“I think it will become easier the more cyclists that you see on the roadways, the more motorists know to look for them and to pay attention to them so I think we’ll reach a certain level of awareness and more folks people riding bikes, the more aware they become of cyclists on the road. Also it gets a mind set for someone who think about it, well there’ somebody doing it and if they can do it I can probably do it.”
The new Hokie Bike Hub will feature workshops and safety sessions. It’s creators hope it will become not only a place for a pit stop, but also a focal point for cyclists to socialize and share their enthusiasm for two wheel travel.