|Deborah Guillen, an accounting clerk at The UTPA Comptroller’s Office, locks up her bicycle on a bicycle rack. The University purchased 12 new bicycle racks to encourage more students, faculty and staff to ride their bikes to work and better accommodate those who already do.|
Students in the Environmental Awareness Club and Student Government Association (SGA) made the request for additional bike racks because the availability of a bicycle rack to securely lock a bike was not always a guarantee. Jorge Trujillo, a senior majoring in biology, said he supports the initiative and appreciates the bike rack addition.
"I had been noticing the bike racks were getting full every day," said Trujillo. "The additional racks will help, especially for commuters like me."
Oscar Villarreal, director for Facilities and Maintenance, said he met with SGA representatives regarding the issue, and saw how important it was to students. Villarreal met with University administration, which supported the initiative with a $5,500 award from the Higher Education Assistance Fund (H.E.A.F.) for the purchase of 12 new bike racks.
"One of the students' concerns was for students who live in apartments near campus," Villarreal said. "It's close, but when you're in a rush, you want to be able to ride your bike and get to class in 2 or 3 minutes rather than the 5 or 10-minute walking time."
UTPA ground crews installed an additional nine bicycle racks on the north side of campus and three on the south side, adding to the 23 bicycle racks already on site. Half of the new racks hold five bikes, while the other half hold 10. Villarreal said he hopes University maps will have more predominant indicators of the racks' locations in the upcoming 2011-2012 school year.
UTPA police chief Roger Stearns is a strong advocate of riding bikes to campus and supports the addition of the new bicycle racks. He wants to remind students about the safety precautions they should take, such as registering bicycles with University police and using a locking mechanism to prevent bicycle theft.
"All bikes on campus should be registered with parking services and display a registration sticker," said Stearns. "If a bike gets stolen, it assists us in getting it back and pursuing criminal charges. The sticker provides a deterrent to criminals because they know it can be traced."
Stearns said he is happy to have the new racks around campus and hopes it will provide an incentive to students, faculty and staff to become cyclists. He also appreciates that UTPA has taken an interest in cycling and has hosted events such as Roll Beyond Coal, where about 200 campus and community members rode bikes around Edinburg in support of clean air.
"My hopes are that the new bike racks will be an added convenience…and that it will encourage bike riding as a recreational activity and an alternative means of transportation," said Stearns.
UTPA is currently pursuing grants to fund hike-and-bike trails that connect the campus with McAllen trails, and other projects that incorporate cycling and make the campus more bike-friendly.