Buckeyes returning to Ohio State’s campus this fall can park and safely secure their bicycles at new racks outside Kottman Hall on the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences campus. Thirty inverted-U racks installed in 2019 added 60 bicycle parking spaces for students, faculty and staff.
Ryan Vogel, a dual-degree master’s student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) and Knowlton School of Architecture, spearheaded the project as part of his mission to transform bicycle infrastructure on campus and in the community.
Vogel noticed the need to replace the bike racks at Kottman Hall early in his first semester at Ohio State. He kept track for a while and discovered an average of 54 bicycles parked there at any given time during normal business hours on weekdays. However, there were only 44 secure bike parking spaces.
In 2019, the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State and Ohio State Energy Partners awarded Vogel $15,000 to have the bike racks installed to meet the needs at Kottman Hall. The Sustainability Institute provided funding through a student grant program for campus sustainability projects, and Ohio State Energy Partners supported it as part of its annual commitment to academic collaboration.
The bike racks are simple inverted-U racks, as is the standard across campus. They provide two points of contact with the bike frame to keep them from falling and allow users to lock the frame and wheel of the bike with a hard-shackled U-lock, which is more secure than thin rope locks or simply locking one’s wheel. Each rack accommodates two bicycles.
Installing these bike racks decreases the number of bikes parked to trees, benches, fences and light posts around the buildings and reduces the potential for improperly locked bicycles to be stolen.
“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," Vogel says.
To reduce the environmental impacts of driving, Vogel strives to create a welcoming bike parking environment for all those that bike to West Campus for classes, research, opportunities, work and play.
“This was 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,” says Jeff Sharp, director of the School of Environment and Natural Resources and a Sustainability Institute affiliated faculty member. “I am so grateful that Ryan took the initiative to identify a strategy and write the proposals necessary to allow for these improvements.”
Vogel also worked with Facilities Operations and Development to create two bike commuter changing rooms 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 Silver Level Bicycle Friendly University by the League of American Bicyclists. Ohio State also opened the Buckeye Bike Hub to provide bicycle repair and cycling supplies as well as educational clinics about bike maintenance, cycling skills and bike safety to the Ohio State community.
A resident of Upper Arlington who bikes to campus from home, Vogel proposed an update to that city’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. The decision for this proposal has been delayed due to the coronavirus. Vogel also worked with the City of Upper Arlington to replace the outdated bicycle racks in front of its municipal services building.
“I push people to think outside the box about how bike friendly a space or building can be,” Vogel says.
Prior to attending Ohio State, Vogel was a sustainability program coordinator and the chair of the bicycle advisory committee at Florida International University, where he installed bike racks at more than five buildings. Recently, in Broward County, Florida, where his parents live, a proposal by Vogel to install new bike racks at a retirement community passed unanimously.
Vogel’s goal once graduating in December 2020 is to be an urban park administrator, advocating for bikes and trees everywhere he goes.
“I installed 60 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,” Vogel says, calling on others to help take up the cause. “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.’”
Information for this story provided by Ryan Vogel and the School of Environment and Natural Resources.