AUBURN – Bicyclists will find a more welcoming environment at Auburn University over the next few years as the university implements the third stage of its transition from the traffic-clogged campus of a decade ago to a pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly environment.
The rapid rise in gasoline prices is making bicycles a more attractive alternative to the automobile for short trips at Auburn and nationally. However, even before fuel costs escalated in 2008, campus planners and a university committee were developing a network of bike paths and taking other actions to make the campus more conducive to bicycle traffic.
Previous stages in the transition included expansion of the Tiger Transit bus system and replacement of streets with pedestrianways in the center of campus.
In addition to new bike paths, plans and efforts to revive bicycling at Auburn include standardized bike racks near major buildings, a bicycle-repair shop in the new student center, new safety programs, adding bike racks on campus buses and possibly implementing a bike loaner program, which would add a campus variant to a program started by the City of Auburn in May.
“Bicycle facilities are part of a larger program of alternate transportation that is set out in the master plan approved by the Board of Trustees,” said Cathy Love of Campus Planning and Space Management. “And it is not just the campus; the city has been very active in this regard also,” she added, noting that one connector on South Donahue Drive will enable riders to reach Chewacla Park from anywhere on campus.
The soon-to-be-completed, off-road, multi-use path along Donahue Drive south of Samford Avenue is the latest and most visible evidence of the movement toward making Auburn more bicycle-friendly. The one-mile paved walkway and bike path, wide enough for both walkers and riders, is the model for a section of the 1.6-mile bicycle facility along Wire Road from southwest of the veterinary college campus to Samford Avenue on the main campus.
A previous bike lane along Wire Road was removed during the 1980s to make room for an additional traffic lane to handle increases in motor vehicles.
The new Wire Road path will be separate from the main road in some places and have guardrails at other locations to increase safety for riders. Federal funds through the Alabama Department of Transportation will cover two-thirds of the $1.4 million cost, and the university will pay for the remainder.
The Wire Road and Donahue routes will connect with campus routes that are already in place or planned for the near future. These include routes along Samford, Mell and Donahue, as well as the new research park. Pedestrianways on campus, such as a major portion of Thach, are also part of the network of bike paths.
The Thach multi-use path will extend to the new student housing on the west side of campus over the next two years, and other plans call for bike paths along the southwest loop road from Wire Road at Lem Morrison to cross West Samford Avenue and eventually connect with Highway 14. Other routes, improvements and extensions by 2015 are planned for Magnolia Avenue, Samford Avenue, Roosevelt Drive, Duncan Drive and Lem Morrison Drive.
Beyond 2015, new routes are scheduled along Parkerson Mill Creek, Ag Heritage Park and the AU Research Park.
In addition to the additional routes on campus, AU bike lanes and paths will connect with City of Auburn bike lanes at West Samford Avenue, Wire Road, Donahue Drive and Thach Avenue.
Love said both the campus and the city are getting guidance in planning from bicycle committees. Although the campus and city bicycle committees are separate entities, several AU faculty and staff members serve on both panels. For information about the campus bicycle committee, see the Web site www.auburn.edu/projects/sustainability/bike.php.