By Katie Devoe
News Staff Writer
Traffic cones were scattered around in a maze-like shape on the grass of the quad to make an obstacle course for bikes last Tuesday afternoon during the annual Bulldog Bike Bonanza. Under the heat of the sun people attempted to maneuver through the course on mountain bikes with difficulty. Even though the course was only a set up, it helps to highlight the rough conditions people bike through which directly impact their level of safety while riding daily.
Bike safety involves knowing about safe and accessible bike paths on and around campus. Anna DaSilva, a senior applied math student, said she could easily bike to campus when she lived closer.
“As a previous cyclist on campus, I used to ride my bike to campus often when I lived really close to campus and I found it to be convenient, but now that I live in west Asheville there really isn’t a convenient and accessible quick way to get here,” DaSilva said. “Unfortunately, now I have to drive. There is a bike route that takes 30 minutes. It takes too long, versus my 3 minute bike ride that I used to have. With a 20 pound backpack on it’s dangerous.”
Bike routes from west Asheville to north Asheville do not seem to be safe and fast for bikers. The unsafe biking conditions mean some people have to drive instead of bike, which is not a sustainable way of transportation. Jenna Ventrella, a sophomore health and wellness student, said the negative attitude drivers have toward bikers can lower the number of bikers and their level of safety as well.
“I think people are very intolerant of bikers because they’re slow. If I were a biker, I would be scared to bike on some of the roads around here because they’re very narrow and drivers are impatient. I don’t see too many bikers on campus, I see a few, but I figured it would be more popular,” Ventrella said.
Improving the bike route conditions around UNCA and the surrounding community could possibly increase the number of people who bike and promote sustainable energy. DaSilva’s voice carries a tone of worry when she talked about biking in west Asheville.
“Living in west Asheville, it is a little bit more cyclist friendly, but the roads even then the cyclist ride on don’t have designated bike lanes and people ride really fast,” DaSilva said.
Some roads in west Asheville lack bike lanes, but having bike lanes does not guarantee biker safety. Ventrella and DaSilva stayed underneath the SEC tent to avoid the heat and both took turns talking about the ways biking conditions are troublesome in Asheville.
“So to do it everyday, to me, just increases the likelihood of me getting injured, so I am still a little afraid of doing it regularly,” DaSilva said.
Bike riding to campus on a daily basis is not advisable because it increases the chance someone has to get hurt. The Bike Bonanza aimed to stress sustainability and bike safety with the help of Outdoor Programs and the SEC.
“The whole idea of the event is to focus on bicycle advocacy, safety and maintenance and encourage people to get outside. Since it’s in coordination with Greenfest, it’s really cool because it’s working on sustainable ways of transportation, and that’s just something we’re all about with Outdoor Programs,” said Lauren Shell, a junior outdoor programs leader at UNCA.
Phil German, assistant director of outdoor programs, and the Student Environmental center, worked together to plan and arrange the event.
Ventrella, a project coordinator for the SEC, said the organization was there to support sustainable energy.
“The Student Environmental Center is promoting sustainability through riding bikes,” Ventrella said.
The recreation store Second Gear attended the event last Tuesday. Amelia Rosenberg, a senior art student and employee of Second Gear, said the shop sells secondhand items. Shopping for products secondhand is more sustainable because less materials are used. Rosenberg helped sign people up for a raffle for items from Second Gear as she talked passionately about the west Asheville area.
Since west Asheville is home to Second Gear, Rosenberg has knowledge of the area’s biking conditions.
“I think that biking in West Asheville is relatively accessible. So, I see a lot of people biking to work as well as just biking around,” Rosenberg said.
Haywood Road houses many businesses and is located close to neighborhoods so workers can easily bike there. The street is lined by Biscuit Head, The Hop, Nine Mile, the Mothlight, Isis Music Hall, Bean Werks Coffee & Tea and Instant Karma.