Several years ago, in an effort to increase foot-traffic and reduce the amount of driving on The University of Tulsa’s campus, university president Steadman Upham collaborated with the Sustainability Committee, Student Association, Campus Security and the Physical Plant to introduce the Yellow Bike program to TU. Since then, it has seen wide success.
With this award, the Yellow Bike program was recognized for creating “a campus culture of healthier living and environmental conservation.” Sustainable Tulsa and the Tulsa Southside Rotary Club and Foundation are responsible for granting the statewide annual Henry Bellmon Quality of Life for All prize.
The decision is based upon dedication to “quality of life, responsible economic growth and environmental stewardship.” In the video accompanying the Sustainability Award announcement, Upham states, “we wanted a pedestrian-friendly campus … (and) to accommodate clean, green transportation” on campus with the Yellow Bike program.
One of the challenges faced in getting the program up and running was
“finding bikes that would be durable enough,” Upham says, as they are exposed to the elements and heavy usage. But after a few brand changes, the last couple orders of new bikes have been placed through a consistent provider, and the bikes are of higher quality than in the early years.
The program began as a workaround to what many students viewed as a problem: biking was just a way to get to class faster once the parking system changed to lot-specific permits. Also, the university undertook construction efforts to move parking lots to the campus’ perimeter in 2008, sparking the need for improved non-driving transportation routes for students.
However, the bikes quickly became valued on their own merit. Students soon recognized the ease and enjoyment of having a bike, and the demand for the program’s expansion grew. The University had purchased 350 bikes at the offset and found themselves having to purchase more in quick succession.
Now, more than 500 bicycles are involved in the program, each being checked out to a student for a semester. By 2016, the University expects to have more than 800 bikes available for students’ use. Bikers are also provided helmets and padlocks to ensure their and their bike’s safety. Also on campus are bike racks and repair stations in addition to the Bike Shop.
Along with involving students by employing a few at the Bike Shop, the Yellow Bike program also seeks to encourage biking through TURN, the TU Riders Network. The group provides resources to students, faculty and staff who wish to commute to work on bikes and also provides opportunities to bike to events in the community, like Food Truck Wednesdays at Guthrie Green.
“We believe that encouraging our students to be active is just part of having a well-rounded student body,” said Lauren Wagner, manager of TURN.
Yellow Bikes also make it easier to get out into the local community for students without cars; they can bike to Drillers baseball games, concerts downtown, nearby coffee shops, nature trails and other places that would otherwise be difficult to reach.
Yellow Bikes are not restricted to on-campus biking, although the Bike Shop’s manager, Steve Caywood, has expressed concern in the past over how students treat their bikes. Leaving them downtown or at Oktoberfest, not using the provided padlocks or laying them on the ground rather than standing them upright for storage are all easy ways for the bikes to get damaged or stolen.
The Henry Bellmon Award serves to emphasize the real benefits of having the Yellow Bike program on our campus. Besides imbuing uniqueness to our campus culture, which University Ambassadors can point out while guiding campus tour groups, the Yellow Bikes enhance the health of our environment and community.