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Aggie Blue Bikes hires coordinator

By Manda Perkins
On March 17, 2014

Aggie Blue Bikes created a new position this semester to serve the USU biking community. Wayne Elder, a member of the League of American Bicyclists, was hired as the first bicycle education coordinator.

Elder has been tasked with a two-fold mission; to encourage more bicycle use on and off campus and to promote bicycle safety through education.

“There is a need because of our observations on how people bike in this town,” Elder said. “We observe a lot of people riding bikes on the sidewalk, riding on the wrong side of the streets and not doing things safely. And there appears to be a severe lack of bicycling in this area … because of the air quality and the health of people. There’s just a lot of benefits for increasing bicycle use.”

As the weather gets warmer, Elder and his team at Aggie Blue Bikes plan to promote biking by hosting several big events, including the celebration of National Bike Month in April, and a “Family Biking Fun Fest,” which will be held Saturday, May 3, after finals week.

Paul Urzagaste, a graduate student studying plant science, is an avid biker. He regularly rides his bike to and around campus. He said there is plenty of room to improve the number of students who use this alternate form of transportation.

“A lot of people are leaving their bikes outside when it starts getting cold or rainy and leave them unattended all semester,” Urzagaste said. “There are at least 10 bikes in my parking lot, and of those 10 bikes, I see maybe three people use them regularly. The rest have flat tires or have rusty chains, so they just sit there.”

By implementing programs to promote bike safety, Elder hopes more students will feel confident to get out and ride.

”It is important for people to feel and act safe,” he said. “I feel that there are a lot of people who would like to ride, but don’t feel comfortable getting in traffic, so we want to teach them to ride comfortably and confidently in traffic situations.”

And to do this, Elder has been working to implement traffic safety courses that students can take for school credit. These courses should be available next fall.

“There’s a lot of people, from my own personal observations riding around town and up on campus, who don’t understand how to safely negotiate traffic,” he said. “We have our fair share of traffic in Logan. So, as far as knowing what side of the street to ride on and how to negotiate intersections, these are all skills that could save our life or keep us from getting hurt.”

Corey Checketts, a senior majoring in public relations, said bicyclists need to know what they are doing out on the road to make the roads safer for everyone.

“New bike riders definitely need to go ride with people who are more experienced to learn how to negotiate traffic,” he said. “And if they can’t, they should take a class to learn how to ride, like a class through the HPER.”

Plans are still in the works to finalize other informal courses, such as Traffic Skills for Commuters and Family Bicycling, but Elder plans to start bicycle maintenance seminars for anyone interested in sharpening their mechanical skills. Until then, the mechanics at Aggie Blue Bikes are willing to help anyone fix bike issues.

“If someone’s confident that, if they have a problem out on the road they are able to fix it, they are more likely to get out on their bike,” he said. “I think some people might be afraid to take their bike on trips around town because, if it breaks down, they don’t know what to do. These guys will teach how to fix and troubleshoot out on the road.”

Checketts compared riding a broken bike to driving a car with its headlights out: “It’s important to know what to do if your bike breaks down.”

“Whenever I go out on a long bike ride, I always prepare for the worst,” Checketts said. “I usually carry tools to fix a chain or a tire … I think a lot of it comes to safety, like driving a car that shouldn't be on the road.”

Elder said he hopes to start presenting these ideas on campus to encourage a stronger biking community at USU.

“It should be a program for the long-run,” he said. “We should never want to stop encouraging people to ride bikes and teaching them how to do it safely because that’s how important it is.”

manda.perkins@hotmail.com

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