And for some, the issues are plentiful. Although bicycling is an efficient way to get to and around campus, it can be treacherous. University Bridge is an especially egregious example, funnelling cyclists into a narrow, heavily trafficked lane where cars often pass cyclists in no-pass zones. Certain traffic lights, like those at the intersection of Sunset Drive and University Drive, disregard cyclists entirely as they cannot detect them. This means the cyclists have to dismount and press the button to change the lights themselves. When coupled with sporadic bike lanes and theft concerns, many students wave off campus cycling for good reasons.
To be fair, Western can't do much about bad drivers; cyclists deal with careless drivers worldwide. Especially in North America, many drivers either willingly or blindly disregard cyclists on their commute. Additionally, Western's authority largely ends at its gates. The university can’t make your off-campus route home more cycle-friendly — that's the city's job. Some of it comes down to urban planning, and like most Canadian cities, London is built for cars rather than bikes.
But the university can fix the cycle-safety issues within the campus and put its money where its mouth is. Better bike and pedestrian infrastructure on campus are a start — things like covered bike racks, consistent bike lanes and accessible showers to rinse off after rides. Despite Western’s continuing emphasis on wellness, there is inadequate infrastructure devoted to supporting the undeniably healthy practices of cycling and walking.
Furthermore, the university is a huge employer, money-maker and trendsetter in the city; any changes they make, any strides towards greater cyclist and pedestrian safety, will pave the way for civic infrastructure on a larger scale. When Western acts, London notices. Of course, impatient and angry drivers will continue to pose a threat to cyclists, but better infrastructure would do a lot to solve that problem too: it’s harder to run over a cyclist in a protected bike lane.
Finally, we acknowledge bike infrastructure is obviously a good idea in a vacuum, but is it reasonable to invest in it over other campus resources? After all, only a small portion of Western’s students are bicyclists, and most choose not to cycle during the winter.
When you look at the big picture and potential long-term benefits of this move, the answer is a resounding yes. Cycling is a cheaper, healthier, more environmentally friendly alternative to driving. Implementing more infrastructure would not only ensure the safety of existing cyclists but it would also open the door for more students to reap the benefits of biking. Going eco-friendly is a lot more appealing when you know you're not in the crosshairs of an oncoming SUV.