The Bike Bowl


 Cross-posted at Streetsblog DC

It’s college football bowl time, which once meant the renewal of age-old rivalries, nowhere more so than in the Rose Bowl, which traditionally pitted the winner of Midwest-based Big 10 conference with the winner of the Pacific 8 (or 10, or 12).

Over the last decade, however, the Big 10 and Pac 12 have been waging another kind of competition: for leadership in the integration of bicycling into campus life.

Back in November, the folks at the U.S. Department of Transportation who put out the useful Census Transportation Planning Products posted a list of the 30 counties and “places” (cities, towns, etc.) that have experienced the greatest increases in commuting by bicycle, on foot, or via public transportation between the 2000 Census and the 2006-2010 American Community Survey.

The list of places that experienced the greatest surge in bike commuting is dominated by college towns (see full list below). Many college towns have long been bastions of bike travel, but the dramatic increase in bike commuting in many of those towns suggests that there is still room to grow, and that efforts to promote bicycling can make a difference. Many of the schools on the list of those with the greatest growth in bike commuting are also on the League of American Bicyclists’ list of “Bicycle Friendly Universities.”

Unfortunately, the Census Bureau only collects data on travel to work, which means that the figures below do not capture travel by students without jobs or those using bikes for recreational trips or errands. Still, the dramatic increase in bicycle travel in college towns is significant. It saves campuses the expense of building new roads and parking structures to accommodate vehicles for students and staff. It provides working students with a first taste of what bicycle commuting is like, creating the possibility that they will look for opportunities to continue to travel by bike post-graduation. And the presence of a bike-friendly campus in a city can create a foundation for making the entire community more accessible to bicycles.

As it turns out, the Big 10 and Pac 12 are co-winners of the Bike Bowl – each with five schools among the Top 30. But many other campuses, from the Ivy League to the SEC, are also represented. See our post at Streetsblog DC for the full list.