Duke Celebrates Bike Commuters Over Breakfast

Bike commuting can play a role in reducing Duke's carbon footprint

Duke hosted an appreciation breakfast May 16 for campus bike commuters. The event was part of National Bike Month. Photo by Alexandria Sampson
Duke hosted an appreciation breakfast May 16 for campus bike commuters. The event was part of National Bike Month. Photo by Alexandria Sampson

A thin sheen of sweat covered Tiffany Wilson's face. Clad in a T-shirt and workout shorts, she took bites from a muffin outside the Bryan Center Plaza as she browsed through bicycling materials at an information table.

Wilson, a Pratt School of Engineering graduate student, has biked three miles from her apartment to campus every day for two years.

"It's nice because I have 30 minutes a day of exercise built into my schedule," Wilson said.

To show appreciation for bike commuters like Wilson, Duke hosted an appreciation gathering on May 16 - one of two special events for National Bike Month to showcase the benefits of bicycling and encourage others to try it.

"We want to show some appreciation for the bike commuters on campus and share information on Duke's bicycle benefits program," said Alison Carpenter, Duke transit planner and transportation demand manager. "It's not always easy to bike to work so we want to make it as enjoyable as possible."

Duke has 715 registered full-time bike commuters and 127 occasional bike commuters, a 3 percent increase since 2004. Nationally, the number of people who bike to work increased by about 60 percent over the past decade.

Employee commuting accounted for 13 percent of Duke's total greenhouse gas emissions in 2013, which remains above intended levels. But there have been gains. According to a 2014 survey conducted by Duke, 29 percent of employees and 40.5 percent of students reported using alternative transportation.

During the appreciation gathering last week, bike commuters mingled over bagels, muffins and coffee while they discussed bike equipment and road safety. Bicycle lights, bells and other free items were also available to commuters.

Wilson, the Pratt student, began biking to campus to manage her time better. She said without factoring in the time it takes to find a parking spot when driving to campus, the walk from her car to her office could range from 10 to 15 minutes. She said biking is more convenient and sometimes even saves time.

Wilson said the only personal goal she had in mind was to push herself. "I just wanted to bike more days than I didn't bike," Wilson said. 

Doctor of Ministry student Keith Daniel, who also attended the appreciation breakfast, bikes and rides a bus to campus. Sometimes, he'll ride a bus for part of the route to bypass high traffic areas and then bike the rest of the way to campus. Access to showers after a bike commute is a big draw for his continued use of alternative transportation.

Having biked for 15 years, Daniel has regularly received praise for his commitment. He said he's seen an interest in bike commuting from colleagues and students. Said Daniel, "I've had various people say they wish they could do it."