Bike riders of all levels encouraged to pedal to work May 7

May is National Bike Month and Rice is kicking it off with a trio of events May 7 designed to encourage greater ridership within the Rice community — even if you’ve never ridden a bike in your life.

Only 6% of employees bike to Rice, but that number should climb on May 7, Bike to Rice Day. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

Only 6% of employees bike to Rice, but that number should climb on May 7, Bike to Rice Day. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

“Increasing the number of bike riders coming to campus creates more awareness and demand for high-comfort bike lanes around Rice, and it helps improve air quality and reduces emissions,” said Lisa Lin, program manager for Rice’s Transportation Demand Management Department. “It also benefits you as an individual, because it can save you money over driving alone. And it’s great for your health and mood.”

Commuter survey responses from 2017 indicated 6% of employees bike to Rice, while 11% of graduate students and 17% of off-campus undergraduates bicycle to campus.

“We’re in the middle of collecting our 2019 commuter survey responses, so we’ll see if that has changed in the last two years,” Lin said.

In the meantime, she’s hoping to boost those numbers during the annual Bike to Rice Day. From 7 to 10 a.m., employees and students who bike to Rice that day can cool down with showers and free refreshments at Rice’s Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center. And those worried about biking solo can contact Lin ahead of time to connect with a “bike buddy” who’ll join them on the journey.

The Rice University Police Department will also be at the Rec Center to register bikes, another incentive Lin hopes will make biking to work that much easier.

“We hope that everyone stops by the Rec Center for refreshments so we can get an estimated head count for participation,” she said.

Never learned to ride a bike? Not a problem.

The Transportation Demand Management Department can hook you up with a "bike buddy" for your commute May 7. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

The Transportation Demand Management Department can hook you up with a “bike buddy” for your commute May 7. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

For the first time, the Transportation Demand Management Department is offering free “learn to ride” classes all day long May 7. These one-hour, one-on-one classes are taught by instructors certified by the League of American Bicyclists and can also be arranged ahead of time through Lin’s department.

“We’ve teamed up with BikeHouston the last two years and provided traffic skills and bike safety classes, but we wanted to take a step back and help those who haven’t ever been on two wheels or have not ridden a bike in a long time,” Lin said. “We want to share the joy of riding with as many people as possible.”

Even if you’re not a cyclist, the electric bicycle demonstrations at the Rice Farmer’s Market might go a long way toward converting you. From 3:30 to 6:30 p.m., Bike Barn will be offering free test rides of the buzzy bikes around the Beer Bike track.

Bike to Rice Day occurs one day before Bike to School Day, coordinated by the city of Houston’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. While it was tempting to hold Rice’s event on the same day, Lin said it was equally important to partner with the Rice Farmer’s Market.

“The compromise was to have it the day before the city’s event and cross-promote with the Rice Farmer’s Market,” she said. “We would love to have the Rice community and Rice’s residential neighbors come celebrate Rice Bike Month with us.”

Even if you’re not able to bike to campus on a regular basis, Lin encourages everyone to explore the city by bicycle whenever possible, offering a few tips on her own favorite spots.

“My fiancé and I love to explore all the new trails that the Houston Parks Board is building for the Bayou Greenways Initiative, but our favorite place to ride is probably around White Oak Bayou,” she said. “We also like riding through downtown on Saturday mornings and through the historic district in the Heights.”

About Katharine Shilcutt

Katharine Shilcutt is a media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.