TU Rider Network builds strong biking community
Tucked away in the Office of the Provost in Collins Hall is the office of Lauren Wagner, a woman with a mission. Her mission is to promote a healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle through the TU Rider Network, or TURN for short. Established in the spring of 2015, TURN has since built a strong foundation of positive impact here at the University of Tulsa.
The idea for TURN came to Wagner from the League of American Bicyclists, a national cycling advocacy organization. “I heard about the Bicycle Friendly University program that they offer,” she explains. “It is designed to encourage institutions to start initiatives that support cycling, and I saw it as the perfect opportunity to start something like that here on campus.”
Recognizing that the campus already had a solid infrastructure and the potential to become a thriving bike community, Wagner decided to create a system that would unify and connect all of the different aspects on campus.
“There are a lot of features of TU that would make it a great biking community. The Yellow Bike Program has been in place for over ten years now, growing more popular every year. There are bike lanes all up and down Delaware that are perfect for commuting to and from campus. The new Oxley College of Health Sciences building downtown offers the perfect bike commute between campus and downtown,” Wagner explains. “The problem, though, was that they were all disconnected, so I decided to create TURN to have a central base that connects everything.”
The first time Wagner applied to the Bicycle Friendly University program was in the fall of 2015, and the university received a honorable mention. The program awards bronze, silver, gold and platinum statuses to universities, as well as honorable mentions. “The application was 25 pages long! We went through it page by page, researching and implementing a lot of the ideas found in it,” she explains. “We may have received an honorable mention that year, but it was common for universities who had never applied before to get that status. Regardless, it was a great learning experience.” She applied again in the fall of 2016 and earned the university the bronze status.
Since its creation, TURN has led a number of initiatives to strengthen and support the biking community at TU. They had a Yellow Bike relay race at last year’s Springfest and the Employee Wellness and Benefit Fair last fall. They had a commuter race from campus to the Oxley College of Health Sciences building between a shuttle bus, Dr. Clancy on a bike and Goldie on the Goldie Mobile. While the shuttle bus may have won, Dr. Clancy came in a close second. The race was meant to promote commuting on a bike between the two locations, which is only three miles and takes about twenty minutes.
They also have a yellow bike booth at the Activities Fair every fall where students can learn about TURN as well as register their personal bikes if they have one. “Fun fact: every student with a personal bike must register it at the Parking and ID Services Office for a variety of reasons,” Wagner says. “Not only does it help campus security to know what to look for if the bike gets stolen but we also donate abandoned bikes. A lot students will graduate and leave their bikes behind, so it’s helpful to be able to contact them to see if this is really the case.”
Thanks to the success of these initiatives, TURN has continued to grow and have an impact. But Wagner doesn’t plan on stopping there. She has plans for continuing to build and strengthen the university’s bike community by offering more fun events, including a bike-themed event for Hurricane Thursdays this fall, and by encouraging more students to get involved in TURN. “I would love to see more students get involved! Students can bring fresh ideas and perspectives to the table, which will help TURN grow,” she said. “We have a newsletter that students can subscribe to at utulsa.edu/TURN as well as my contact information if students are looking to get in contact with me directly.”
At the end of the day, though, Wagner’s main goal is to just instill a love of cycling across campus and the Tulsa community. “The purpose of TURN is to promote cycling in every form,” she concludes. “Whether that be serious biking competitions or just an easy bike ride around the park, TURN is here to support that and create a safe place for it. And I think, with the help of the students and staff here at the University of Tulsa, we can really make that goal a reality.”