Auburn University to become more bicycle friendly

Auburn University employee and recent graduate Matt Laney rides along Auburn's new bike path next to South Donahue Drive
Auburn University employee and recent graduate Matt Laney rides along Auburn's new bike path next to South Donahue Drive

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.

Contact: Cathy Love, (334) 844-9579 (lovecat@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)

Hi-res photo:

Auburn University employee and recent graduate Matt Laney rides along Auburn's new bike path next to South Donahue Drive
Auburn University employee and recent graduate Matt Laney rides along Auburn's new bike path next to South Donahue Drive

12 thoughts on “Auburn University to become more bicycle friendly

  1. Pingback: This Week @ AU » Blog Archive » Auburn University becoming more bicycle friendly

  2. Daniel Johnson

    I think the new paths will be great, but how about something extending out to the apt complexes on S. College St. like University Heights and University Village?

  3. Wire Eagle

    Daniel: Until a solution arises for that area of Auburn, I would recommend taking Longleaf drive across College St. till it intersects with S. Donahue Drive. From that point, there is a multi-use path all the way to campus. Longleaf is a much safer alternative than the extremely busy College St.

  4. Graduate Student

    More bikes and fewer cars on campus is a great idea and I am all for it. Riding from your house to campus, however, can be a bit challenging considering the traffic around campus. Bike lanes are rare and are still very dangerous and several students I know of have received outrageous fines ($140) by Auburn police for riding (very slowly of course) on the sidewalk along College street instead of on College street. I do not ride my bike from my house because of the very real fear of being hit by a car. The risk of serious injury is much lower on the sidewalk. The sidewalk should be shared by walkers and bikers at a slow speed.

  5. Matt

    Actually, GS, it is more dangerous to ride on the sidewalk than the street. There are a few studies which have proven this fact. Here is a good outline about a 1994 study that compared cycling on a sidewalk vs. the street: http://tinyurl.com/5mkazv . The original paper can be found here: http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/els/00224375/1996/00000027/00000003/art82242

    “The average cyclist in this study incurs a risk on the sidewalk 1.8 times as great as on the roadway, and the result is statistically significant.”

    “The greatest risk found in this study is for bicyclists over 18 traveling against traffic on the sidewalk. Each of these characteristics is hazardous in itself; combined, they present 5.3 times the average risk.”

  6. M Koppersmith

    I would question the accuracy of a 14 year old study re the safety of bicycling on sidewalks vs the steet. Technology changes such as the widespread use of cell phones, and texting by inattentive drivers, has likely rendered this report obsolete. Information reported in many newspapers indicates this as a causation factor not only in automobile accidents, but also in accidents between vehicles and both bicycles and pedestrians alike. Such widespread use did not exist 14 years ago. When I was growing up parents and teachers alike always taught us to walk and ride facing and watching the traffic so that you would have a chance to jump out of the way in case an oncoming driver was not paying attention to his driving for any reason such as tuning the radio, etc. It would seem that this is even more important now that drivers have cell phones, navigation systems, and other such items which can and do distract them.

    Just my observations from a senior citizen perspective.

  7. Illinois War Eagle

    Great story. I would have loved to have seen this back in the 80′s and 90′s growing up in Auburn and also going to college there. I can’t tell you have many hundreds of times I drove out to Chewacla simply because I never felt comfortable riding my bike out on Wrights Mill Road or South College.

  8. Bill McCallister, Jr.

    I really was pleased to see the progress in providing an alternative to using a car. Keep up the good work. Once again Auburn is on the correct path to the future.

  9. Dave Corley

    Great idea, safe bike/pedestrian lanes will get a lot of cars off the road & hopefully get more people out for some much needed exercise – however I’ve seen numerous near accidents mainly due to a moron on a bike who doesn’t have a clue of basic bike rules – anyone who drives a car, motorcycle or bike on campus should have to take a simple “rules of the road” test that covers right of way for bikes, pedestrians & vehicles, if you don’t make 100%, walk…

  10. Matt

    @M Koppersmith

    Research is not invalidated by age, but by new, contradictory evidence. You do bring up a good point, though. The fact that drivers today are even more distracted than before would likely increase accident rates in all cases (bikers traveling towards/with traffic or on sidewalks), but certainly not decrease accident rates.

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