Alternative transportation takes off at Clemson
Alternative transportation is coming to Clemson, and it’s coming by bike, with BikeShare, a new bike rental program on campus, leading the movement.
Organizers say they hope the program will make a significant impact on quality of life at the University: They see it as a way to bring a cheap, efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly form of transportation to a large portion of the campus population. Beyond that, BikeShare is part of a growing trend, moving away from relying on motorized transit as the only way to get from here to there.
“I would love to see it be a starting point toward an overall movement toward bikes on Clemson’s campus,” said Jacob McMeekin, who is the current transportation and facilities chairman for Undergraduate Student Government. “We want to encourage people to find other ways to get to campus, other than just taking their cars. Biking, with how close our housing is, is a great alternative.”
Quick and easy
BikeShare is a simple concept: It allows students, faculty and staff to rent and ride bikes from five stations around campus for an annual fee of $5. The membership includes a free bike helmet, and utilizes the my.Clemson app to provide a map with the location of each station, bike lane and shared road in the area.
Biking has long been an effective way to travel in Clemson, but if you take a look around you might think the activity is experiencing a renaissance. Bike stations are popping up all over campus, and new bike trails may follow.
“BikeShare provides a quick and convenient way to get around campus,” said Tanya DeOliveira, assistant master planner at University Planning and Design. But BikeShare is not an isolated effort; rather it’s the product of years of alternative transportation planning, she said. University Planning and Design put forth a bikeways master plan in 2012 that outlined the school’s first attempt to bring more bike facilities and a more bike-friendly culture to campus. That sparked a conversation between the Planning and Design office and Parking and Transportation Services about addressing alternative mobility needs.
Undergraduate Student Government jumped into the conversation in 2014 under the leadership of then transportation and facilities chair, Will Richter. Undergraduate Student Government provided the initial funding to get BikeShare off the ground. The chosen vendor is Bcycle, an organization that operates in cities all over the country, including Greenville, which is only a short drive away.
“Students have the opportunity to also use Bcycle if they visit Greenville,” said McMeekin, of the student government association. “The membership will apply to both Clemson and Greenville.”
Town and gown
BikeShare is not the only alternative transportation effort developing in the Clemson area. A group called Friends of the Green Crescent Trail, comprising government officials, University faculty and staff, and residents of Clemson, Central and Pendleton has proposed an alternative transportation network that ties campus to surrounding communities. The trail could, upon completion, connect campus with more than 40 miles of bikeways and pathways.
“The Green Crescent Trail ensures that safe options are available for bikers,” McMeekin said. “It ensures that you have the right size bike lanes and the right size sidewalks to make sure that students and members of the community feel more comfortable when they’re out there.”
“The Green Crescent would be a really amazing piece of trail to help people get around the larger community by bike,” DeOliveira said. “If both BikeShare and that were to be realized, the Clemson area could become a national model in 20 years or so.”
McMeekin shares DeOliveira’s optimism about the future of alternative transportation on Clemson’s campus and its surrounding area.
“BikeShare is just one step out of many we’re using to improve alternative transportation,” he said. “We’re also working with CATbus. We’ll have electric buses coming to campus in the next few years, so we’re excited about that. It’s really just one piece of a much larger puzzle.”
Completing that puzzle will take time and considerable planning. Numerous groups — students, faculty, staff and community members — will be involved. The collaboration, however, should come naturally.
“At Clemson we come together and we do what’s best for the entire community,” DeOliveira said.