New and returning students at The Ohio State University have the opportunity to park and safely secure their bicycles at new racks installed outside Kottman Hall.
“The old concrete slab bike racks were obsolete forcing users to either lock one’s wheel, which can easily be removed or lock the bike frame using a thin rope lock, which can easily be cut,” said Ryan Vogel, a dual-degree master’s student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) and the Knowlton School of Architecture, and the cycling force behind the new bike rack project. Prior to attending Ohio State, Ryan was a sustainability program coordinator and the chair of the bicycle advisory committee at Florida International University.
Vogel was awarded $15,000 from the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State and Ohio State Energy Partners to install the new bike racks. The Sustainability Institute funding was provided through a student grant program for campus sustainability projects. Ohio State Energy Partners provides funding each year to multiple programs as part of its commitment to academic collaboration.
Thirty new inverted-U racks have been installed on the east and north sides of Kottman Hall. These new racks add 60 new bicycle parking spaces, doubling the previous capacity.
“This is an overdue and much needed improvement to our bicycle infrastructure. As a frequent bicycle commuter, I’ve directly observed times when finding an open and legal spot to park a bike can be quite challenging around Kottman,” said Jeff Sharp, director of the School of Environment and Natural Resources. “I am so grateful that Ryan took the initiative to identify a strategy and write the proposals necessary to allow for these improvements.”
On the need for greater bicycle infrastructure
Vogel came up with replacing the bike racks at Kottman Hall early in his first semester at Ohio State.
"Biking to Kottman during the winter is not comfortable, but at least I can always find parking. Whereas, bike parking at Kottman on a beautiful fall or spring day is nearly impossible," Vogel said.
"Kottman Hall, home to the SENR and the Departments of Entomology, Horticulture and Crop Science, and Plant Pathology, is well situated to be a university symbol of sustainability. With so many environmentalists in the building, it is no surprise that our students, faculty and staff choose to bike rather than drive to Kottman Hall each day."
After several early attempts to raise funding for the project, Vogel applied for and received support through the Sustainability Institute and Ohio State Energy Partners and quickly his idea has become a reality.
"My hope is that no visitors to Kottman Hall will ever be plagued by the frustration of being unable to find bike parking, as that reflects very poorly on the SENR and the university overall."
The new racks are simple inverted-U racks, as is the standard across campus. They provide two points of contact with the bike frame (as shown in photo 3) to keep them from falling and allow users to lock the frame and wheel of the bike with a hard-shackled U-lock (photo 4), which is more secure than thin rope locks or simply locking one’s wheel.
"Replacing the old underutilized, non-compliant concrete racks with inverted-U racks will reduce the number of bikes parked illegally to trees, benches, fences, and light posts around the building and reduce the potential for improperly locked bicycles to be stolen," Vogel said.
On Making a Difference
Vogel is on a mission to transform bicycle infrastructure on campus and in the community - one project at a time.
This past spring Vogel worked with Facilities Operations and Development (FOD) to create a bike commuter changing room in Knowlton Hall, his other academic department. He hopes efforts such as this will enhance Ohio State’s designation as a bicycle friendly university. Currently, Ohio State is listed as a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists. Over the summer, Vogel proposed an update to the City of Upper Arlington’s Municipal Code of Ordinances (list of city laws) to include more explicit guidelines regarding mandatory requirements for commercial businesses to provide adequate and accessible bicycle parking. Vogel is also currently working with the City of Upper Arlington to replace the outdated bicycle racks in front of their municipal services building.
“I installed 60 new bike parking spaces at Kottman Hall, the place where students major in sustainability. But I cannot be the only one working to make Ohio State more bike friendly, I need your help. In the words of Dr. Seuss’, The Lorax, ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.’”
This work was supported in part by The Sustainability Institute at Ohio State.