The University of Salford is using the investment in cycling infrastructure by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to put together its own three-year sustainable travel plan.
The institution’s travel and transport officer Andy Binder explains that as a major employer and generator of travel in the region, it felt it was important to support the project and make it easier for staff and students to participate.
“We’ve got quite specific targets to increase cycling among staff and students,” he says.
“At the moment, we are over the national average but below average for universities. So one of first things we did was get a cycle to work scheme in place. That has been quite popular with existing cyclists and with those who are new to cycling or haven’t done it that much before too.”
Working with TfGM, the university became eligible for some funding for cycle parking and infrastructure. It used this to increase bike security for all and also built showers and changing facilities for staff. The development has been so warmly welcomed that the university has pledged to continue funding it once the grant is completed, as it has done with other measures.
Of the network of routes around Greater Manchester, a large number of the segregated ones are located around the campus, and the university worked with the local authority on designs for the cycle routes so they could benefit students. And the more practical elements of support are also proving popular.
“We’ve built up a bit of a package. We run maintenance courses for staff and students helping them keep bikes running smoothly. That’s been really good for networking. TfGM has funding for that until 2015 so it’s offered for free, but beyond then we will start paying for it. We’ve not sorted out how we will do it but we are committed to doing it,” Binder continues.
“And we also have a bike doctor where they can do basic repairs on the day – and if someone has more serious repairs, the business calls them back.”
A bike user group has also been created which is open to any staff members to join, whether they cycle to university or just generally. Here, they can raise issues with the university and get help from fellow cyclists – such as requesting spare inner tubes for flat tyres and other cycling ailments.
And the university has utilised some of the skills of its staff: lecturers in public health have been employed by Binder to dip into their knowledge to supplement the process.
“The network is a good way of fostering staff relations as well – in the university, there are a lot of staff who work in closed units and this is a good way of bringing them together,” says Binder.
“And there is evidence on the effects of the project too. We do a travel survey every two to three years. The last one was in 2011 just before we started this and the next is in November, so that will give us good data on how they use it and how aware of it they are. But there is positive anecdotal feedback already, with people saying they have given up parking permits and saved £250 a year or that they have seen the health benefits already from cycling to work.”
With the Students’ Union also buying in to the mentality and offering short- and long-term bike loans, the University of Salford has fully embraced life on two wheels.
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