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Cycle of changes: New ASU bike initiatives help keep community safe

Tour de Tempe: Cycle of changes brought to ASU bicycle community.
Tempe campus bike counters will help influence infrastructure, policy.
Bike guide lets riders know the top 12 bike-crash locations in Tempe.
January 30, 2018

How many bicycles pass through Arizona State University's Tempe campus on a daily basis? How about each year?

The answers to these questions have never been quantifiable, but that's about to change.

Earlier this month, a pair of bike counters were installed at the Forest/University and Apache/College cross streets (pictured above), changing the game for everyone involved in the transit community.

"Our students will use the data to do course work and projects on bicycling in the region," said Trisalyn Nelson, director of ASU's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at ASU. "It's important to monitor how many people bicycle in order to have an understanding of how changes in infrastructure and policy impact people's willingness to ride."

According to Nelson, bicycle ridership rates are up 17 percent on the Tempe campus. The new counters will document those changes and the reasons that go along with it.

They will also make life easier on everyone involved in on-campus transit.

"The school purchased the counters, and ASU Parking and Transit Services helped install them," said JC Porter, ASU's assistant director of commuter services. "They will definitely help since normally that data is collected by volunteers who have to count the bikes by hand."

Outside of his work with the new counters, Porter also oversees all sustainable transportation resources made available to ASU students. This includes intercampus shuttles and carpooling efforts, discounted public transit passes and of course, biking.

For all of his efforts, he was recently named the 2018 Tempe Bike Hero, an award that will be presented by the Tempe City Council in February. He has also received the President’s Award for Sustainability and the International Parking Institute’s Emerging Leader of the Year award within the past year.

A safer campus, through technology and teaching

The newly installed counters are just one of ASU's current bike-related initiatives.

With some help from the city of Tempe, — a web-map founded by Nelson — released a handy guide to show the top 12 locations in Tempe where the most bicycle accidents occur. The guide was finished earlier this month and is a useful resource to decrease the number of bicycle crashes around ASU.

"BikeMaps provides an important tool for ASU students to understand bicycle safety," Nelson said. "It's a site where anyone in the world can map a bicycle crash, near miss or hazard. Most incidents go unreported, and we want to use the website to help the region make better decisions."

In addition to the counters and bicycle safety tips, Nelson and Porter aim to further studies in the area with a new partnership between the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and Parking and Transit Services.

A course in Campus Transportation Planning is slated to start later this year, with a projected start date of fall 2018. 

"Students will have the opportunity to work on practical research questions that will help ASU support all forms of transportation," Nelson said. "We will study bike parking, bicycling and walking safety issues, investigate how and why bicycling to campus is on the rise and map the shadiest paths between buildings."

More information on the class will be released later in the semester. 

Top photo: ASU Parking and Transit maintenance worker Clayton Brunetti digs a trench for wires that will connect in-ground sensors to a solar-powered sign showing the daily and annual count of bicycles near the intersection of Apache Boulevard and College Avenue. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Connor Pelton

Communications Writer , ASU Now

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The importance of bike safety

ASU bicyclists can get free water, take part in Bike Blitz week of Oct. 24.
Cyclists can use BikeMaps to report hazards, collisions, thefts to community.
October 21, 2016

ASU director getting the word out on bike benefits, safety information in conjunction with Bike Month

For Trisalyn Nelson, inspiration hit when the oncoming car almost did.

One day in 2014, Nelson was cycling on her way back from work at the Spatial Pattern Analysis and Research Lab she founded at Canada’s University of Victoria. As she was coming around a blind corner, a car passed by too close for comfort. By the time she arrived back at the lab the next day, an innovative new idea was in the making.

“I was mad … I said, ‘That’s it … our lab is going to work on a project, and we’re going to call it Flip the Bird and it’s going to be a place where people can rant about things that happen to them on their bike,’” said Nelson, now the director of Arizona State University’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

“But then I started looking around and I realized, ‘Wait, this isn’t just a place for ranting, because nobody has good data on this. So why don’t we do it properly and we will help be part of the solution.’”

That’s how was born.

Aside from being a case study on how to effectively channel frustration, the website and app aim to make cycling safer for bike enthusiasts worldwide. Cyclists can use BikeMaps to report hazards, collisions, near misses and thefts to the rest of the cycling community.

homepage of

Cyclists can use BikeMaps to report hazards, collisions, near misses and thefts to the rest of the cycling community.

During the week of Oct. 24, the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, ASU Fitness and Wellness, University Sustainability Practices and the Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists will collaborate to help distribute 1,000 water bottles imprinted with the BikeMaps logo to ASU and Tempe cyclists. The bottles will be delivered to bike racks and bike cages in the area.

Called “Bike Blitz,” the distribution occurs in conjunction with ASU’s Bike Month this October, and the bottles will contain a message encouraging recipients to take part in the BikeMaps citizen science effort.

Nelson hopes to use the data gathered from the “Bike Blitz” to help cyclists and the city of Tempe make better-informed decisions about bicycle safety practices.

“A lot of cities are focused right now on getting more people on bikes because [of] its good public health benefits, good environmental benefits, [and] you can save a lot of money if you ride your bike,” Nelson said. “But the number one barrier for more people riding is that people don’t feel safe. So the more we can make it a safe activity, the more we will make it an accessible activity.”

In addition to the Bike Blitz, the BikeMaps team will be handing out bottles at the Food Truck Thursday event Oct. 27 at the College Avenue Commons in Tempe.

Reporter , ASU Now