Pedal Power Making Progress At Duke

More commuters hop on bikes when coming to campus

Steve Hinkle parks his bike at a rack next to Duke Chapel. Hinkle rides his bike to work every day. Photo by Bryan Roth.
Steve Hinkle parks his bike at a rack next to Duke Chapel. Hinkle rides his bike to work every day. Photo by Bryan Roth.

For nearly a year, Steve Hinkle has peddled his way to the grocery store, meetings and most important - to and from work.

Hinkle agreed last year to give up his 200,000-mile, 1992 Toyota Corolla for a custom-made commuter bike from Black Sheep Bikes of Fort Collins, Colo. The swap was part of the "Tour de Fat," a countrywide traveling bike event that made its first stop in Durham. The catch: Hinkle pledged to not drive a car, barring a serious emergency, for one year.

While some may not be as accepting of this drastic change in transportation, Hinkle embraced it, particularly time spent on his bike on and around campus.

"I've really enjoyed it because I like the sense of contact I get with the grounds and spaces around Duke," said Hinkle, a chaplain with InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty Ministries. "It's really easy to jump on my bike and go from one point to another because I don't have to worry about parking like I would with a car."

In the past two years, Duke has made strides in enhancing campus for bike riders and commuters. Among the improvements are bike safety signs painted on roadways (called "sharrows") and the creation of online maps showing the locations for all 140 bike racks and 2,220 bike "parking spaces" on campus. The map also highlights showers that registered bike commuters can use at Wilson and Brodie recreation centers. In addition, launched, offering tips on riding a bike to and around Duke.

Last year, nearly 200 new Duke community members registered as bike commuters. Duke now has about 460 total; 40 percent are faculty and staff.

"Practically every Duke road on campus has bike infrastructure in the form of a bike lane, wide shoulder or sharrow," said Brian Williams, Duke's transportation demand management coordinator. "We've made a concerted effort to make biking the cleanest and fastest way to travel carbon-free throughout Duke."

Hinkle, the chaplain and bike commuter, said having access to showers has been a benefit, especially in Durham's summer heat. He also noted that Duke's use of "sharrows" - nationally recognized symbols to alert drivers that cyclists are sharing the main traffic lane - may offer a long-lasting impact. The symbols are painted at 25 campus locations, from the Campus Drive tunnel on East Campus to the entrance of Science Drive across from the Washington Duke Inn.

"I like seeing those because it's one more reminder to commuters that the road is also intended to be used by bikes," Hinkle said. "There's a cultural momentum gaining that offers more and more support for people to bicycle at Duke."

Visit the Parking and Transportation Services website to learn more about bicycle commuting, including perks like free daily parking passes and shower use at Wilson and Brodie recreation centers.