Locker project to give cyclists alternatives

If you happen to see more bicycles on the University of Lethbridge campus this spring, it might not be solely related to better weather conditions. Rather, it could be the more favourable conditions created for riders, thanks to a collaborative initiative between Sport and Recreation Services and Parking and Security Services.

A total of 30 new bike lockers, a shared purchase by the two campus units, will arrive on campus at the end of April, giving campus commuters more options should they choose to go green and leave their cars at home.

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Would you rather leave your bike in exposed racks or take advantage of enclosed bike lockers? More choices will be available this spring with the addition of 30 new lockers to campus.

"Parking Services was introduced to bike lockers in 2009 and had the opportunity to meet with company representatives in the spring of 2010," says Dick Lutwick, parking manager. "At that time we decided to place five lockers on campus on a trial basis."

Located outside the 1st Choice Savings Centre, the five lockers served as a pilot project that was quickly accepted by the campus community.

"The original plan called for the manufacturer to leave them there for two months just to see what kind of response we'd get and that two months has stretched into a year," says Kevin McFadzen.
"We found five people who were interested in using them and after that I established a list of others who were wondering how they could get into a locker and whether we had plans to get more on campus."

McFadzen is an avid cyclist and had been introduced to the locker concept while attending the University of Victoria. He had an interest in bringing them to the U of L and found like-minded attitudes in Parking Services.

"We view this investment as supporting green initiatives," says Lutwick of the joint $30,000 purchase. "It supports the University's commitment to environmental sustainability. By promoting the use of alternative transportation, we can accommodate a larger campus population without increasing our parking infrastructure."

But why are the lockers needed when there are ample bike racks at various campus locations?

"I've got bikes I don't ride to school because they're too expensive and I don't want them damaged, sitting in the elements all day or simply getting stolen," says McFadzen.

With the success of five lockers on campus, a survey went out to the U of L community about its appetite for more. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

"I was actually surprised from our survey last year," says McFadzen. "I'd always talked to people about them but I realized I was probably talking to a biased group, those who already ride bikes."

The lockers can fit an entire bike and is complete with hooks to hang gear such as helmets and wet clothes. They will be made available on a rental basis, much like gym lockers inside the 1st Choice Savings Centre.

"Some people would like to have a daily rental but that would get into substantial costs, having to have electronics out there to monitor that use," says McFadzen. "Plus, if someone rides in with an expensive bike expecting to have a locker and finds they are all taken, then what option does that leave them?"

Neither Lutwick nor McFadzen expect the entire campus to suddenly adopt bicycles as their preferred mode of transport because of this initiative but they see it as taking away obstacles for those inclined to go green.

"I'm hoping that it gets less cars coming to campus," says McFadzen. "We have 30 lockers, so in reality, probably 20 people who are already riding their bikes to campus will take advantage of these lockers. But if it adds another 10 bikes to campus and encourages 10 people to leave their cars at home, that's something. It's a start and hopefully it will catch on."

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