Bikes, boards and by foot: How fast can we move?

What’s something every college student and professor has in common? Classes.

So how do we get to there? For the most part, walking, biking or riding a skateboard. Some people may prefer one mode of transportation over the other, but all three have their own unique advantages and setbacks on ASU’s Tempe campus. In order to find the quickest way to travel, I decided to run some tests. I measured the times it takes to get around campus using all three modes of transport, and the results are somewhat surprising.

To complete this study I broke up the campus into six zones, A through F, in and around where most academic buildings are centered. The zones (see map 1) were then given what I call a “cushion-time.” This is the average time it takes to get from one end of the zone to the other on foot with a heavy backpack. Three areas from which many students depart for class were also determined: Manzanita/Palo Verde, the Memorial Union and Hassyampa Academic Village (see map 2). A cushion-time was also assigned to all three. Obviously not everyone lives in Hassy or Manzy, but many students at least pass through these areas from their own residence halls, or from where they parked their cars, on their way to class.

Biking

Bikes are popular, there's no doubt about that. Many students choose to make their commute on two wheels, and for good reason. Biking is a healthy and inexpensive way of traveling moderate distances over a variety of different terrains. This makes bikes great for getting from your home to campus if you’re a commuter.

Unfortunately, once you’re on campus, they can become a hassle. Sure, bikes are faster than walking but how much faster? Well, according to the numbers recorded in the conducted time trials, riding a bike is about three times faster than walking. This is purely in terms of the distance between zones, though. (*for more info see the zone breakdown.)

The extra nuisance of being a bike owner means you have to worry about theft, so we must lock up our bikes if we don't want bike thieves to abscond with the pieces. Luckily, ASU has been kind enough to provide us all with racks to use while we enjoy our lectures during the day. For the most part, this works out great. But what if you need to get to class quickly and there's no bike rack next to your building?

The answer is, you walk.

There is always going to be extra time added on to your commute to lock your bike and walk to your class, though some zones are far worse than others. The problem with this is when you travel a relatively short distance, for example: Manzy/PV to zones A and B and C. These zones are clustered in crowded area of campus with a Walk-Only Zone running between them. During crowded times of the day, it can be hard to find a spot to lock up your bike and most places are still a good two-minute walk away. It’s faster for the majority of people to simply walk these distances.

Consensus: the farther you’re going, the friendlier travel by bike is going to be. Zones A, B, C are all tightly packed together and make travel by bike difficult, but there are many places on campus that allow travel by bike to be quick, safe and hassle-free (*see zone E.)

Skateboarding

There are plenty of people that say skateboarding is the way to go if you want to get around campus, and they aren’t crazy. According to the study, skateboards are the fastest way to get around campus. Boarding from place to place on campus is just over three times as fast as walking, and the pain of having to lock up your board is felt much less frequently than with bikes. Skateboarders can carry their wheels with them much more easily and most buildings are tolerant of students bringing their skateboards inside.

On the other hand, skateboards do have their flaws as a primary mode of transportation on campus. For one, riding a skateboard can cause more of a danger to yourself and others than biking or walking. The average skateboard user has much less control over turning and stopping than the average bike user. It is also easier to fall off of a skateboard than a bike. Their tiny wheels make that possibility all the more likely. Many places on campus have ground that is uneven, gravel-like and filled with cracks. When the smaller wheels on a skateboard are stopped by cracks and small rocks you can be sent flying and become seriously injured.

Consensus: If speed is the name of the game for you, then a skateboard is the way to go. Those who may be more novice riders might want to consider alternative ways of getting to class.

Walking

Though many people use bikes and boards, just as many are perfectly content with using their own two feet to get around the campus. Though not as speedy as biking or skateboarding, walking still holds its own on a campus as crowded as ours.

Why is walking a good idea? For one, it keeps that beach body lookin' fine and stops those extra pounds from weighing you down. Walking to class can burn up to four times as many calories as skateboarding, and more than twice as many as biking. Keeping on your feet is always a good way to stay in shape. Another great reason to walk is the Walk-Only Zones. These zones may seem annoying to those on bikes and boards, but they keep the campus safe.

Anyone who has travelled down Palm Walk or hung out next to the MU on an average day knows how crowded it can get. Getting to class without the risk of getting run over shouldn’t be a privilege, but on college campuses it certainly is. Not all campuses have designated areas like this, so let's all be grateful.

The biggest drawback to walking around campus is definitely speed. The reality is that walking just takes longer, period. So if you decide to walk, make sure you leave enough time to get to class so you aren’t late.

Consensus: Walking helps keep you in shape and walkers are the only ones privileged enough to have their own designated areas to do what they do best: walking. Time is a bigger factor when walking, though, so the major trade off for healthier living is sacrificing speed.

Zone Breakdown

A.)

Time from:

Manzy: Walk-0:45s; Bike-0:16s; Skateboard-0:15s

MU: W-4:00s B-1:24s S-1:20s

Hassy: W-6:00s B-2:05s S:2:00s

Zone A is located in the northeast corner of the campus. If you have a class in the physical sciences, chances are you're going to be commuting to one of these buildings. The cushion-time for zone A is about four-and-a-half minutes and there are bike racks located in northeast and southeast corners of the zone. The front of the building is located on a Walk-Only Zone. So if you're on a bike or skateboard, you're probably better off entering from the east side or northeast entrance closest to Manzanita.

B.)

Time from:

Manzy: W-2:00s B-0:42s S-0:40s

MU: W-6:40s B-2:19s S-2:13s

Hassy: W-6:00s B-2:05s S:2:00s

Zone B is the location of the Psychology buildings and the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 2. You know, the one that makes all those weird animal noises when you walk by. There is a bike rack at the south end of zone B and the cushion-time is 2:30s.

C.)

Time from:

Manzy: W-3:30s B-1:13s S-0:15s

MU: W-1:50s B-0:38s S-0:30s

Hassy: W-4:15s B-1:29s S-1:25s

Zone C is probably the most difficult zone to have class in. Not because many mathematics and engineering classes are held here, but because it takes a very long time to get from one end of this zone to the other. As you can see on the map, zone C is bordered on two sides by walk-only zones. The trouble here is that you can not get through to the Engineering center buildings in the northeastern part of the zone from the southeastern part without walking all the way around the buildings. Despite what it shows on the map, the small path between ECF and ENGRC is not a way to get through to classrooms in the northern section. This path is gated and locked at all times, save for official use. The cushion-time for zone C is 3:30s, which may not sound that bad, but keep in mind that with zone C you have no choice but to walk. All other zones are more accessible by bike and skateboard which cuts down on the cushion-time for riders. The closest bike racks for zone C can be found along the south end and just northeast near the Goldwater Science and Engineering center.

D.)

Time from:

Manzy: W-4:45s B-1:39s S-1:35s

MU: W-1:20s B-0:28s S-0:27s

Hassy: W-8:30s B-2:57s S-2:50s

Zone D is located along Tyler Mall and northeast of the Hayden Library. The majority of the buildings that make up zone D are the life sciences buildings.  Zone D is the most accessible zone in the center of campus by bikes and skateboards. This is mostly because of the fact that there are very direct routes to zone D that don’t go through Walk-Only Zones. Hayden Mall gives easy access to the center of zone D from the MU and makes it much faster for students on wheels to get through the center of campus without having to deal with a Walk-Only Zone. The walking cushion-time for zone D is about 3 minutes, but thanks to the central location of its bike racks, between LSC, LSE and SS bikers will never have to walk more than 30s to get to their class’s buildings.

E.)

Time from:

Manzy: W-6:40s B-2:19s S-2:13s

MU: W-2:25s B-0:51s S-0:48s

Hassy: W-11:10s B-3:54s S-3:43s

Zone E is the cluster of academic buildings located on the west side of Campus. It is the farthest building from all three areas. Farthest of all from zone E is Hassyampa Academic village, with an average travel time of more than 11 minutes walking. This is even farther from anyone living south of Hassy in Vista, Adelphi commons, Sonora etc., so it’s probably a good idea to bike or skateboard to classes there. If you do choose to walk make sure to leave at least 15 minutes before your class starts, if not more. Zone E benefits from a lack of crowding compared to other zones. Though Forest Mall does get busy, it’s is less of an issue because the buildings in zone E are much more spread out than the rest of the zones. This does make classes farther apart, but it’s okay because with a bike rack in front of nearly every building, bikers can lock up right next to their classrooms. The walking time in zone E is a bit harsher though, with a cushion-time of nearly five minutes.

F.)

Time from:

Manzy: W-8:30s B-2:57s S-2:54s

MU: W-0:15s B-N/A S-0:05s

Hassy: W-3:45s B-1:18s S-1:15s

Finally, we have zone F which is home to the business school and is located directly behind the MU. This zone has a cushion-time of two and a half minutes, and is bordered by two Walk-Only Zones: Palm Walk and Hayden Library. There are less places to lock your bike when you enter the zone, so walking the full cushion-time even after locking your bike is not uncommon.

Areas

Manzanita/PV - The cushion-time to walk across this area is three minutes. Students coming from the west end of the area should be aware that taking the bridge to classes on the eastern side of campus is just as fast if not faster than using the crosswalk. The same can be said for kids coming from the eastern part of the area heading west. The crosswalk is unpredictable and the wait times can vary greatly. I recommend only using the crosswalk if you’re coming from the eastern side (Manzanita) and heading to zones A or B.

Memorial Union - If you’re headed to class after grabbing a bite at the MU you’re in a pretty good position time wise. It does not take long to get from the MU to any of the zones. If you feel discouraged by the very large Walk-Only Zone encompassing the large area around Hayden, you can cheer up because it actually takes the same amount of time on a bike or skateboard to go around to get to zone E as it does to go through it. The best route to take is Hayden Mall if you’re coming from the front, and the small Path between INTDSB and SSV if you're coming from the back of the MU.

Hassyampa Academic Village- It’s a good thing Hassy is home to the business majors, because zone F is the only zone they’re at all close to. Unfortunately for anyone living south of Hassy, your commute times are going to be even longer, so keep that in mind when selecting campus housing next semester.

So what’s the best way to get around campus? There’s no right or wrong answer to this question, but personally I think walking takes the cake. One thing doing these experiments made me realize is how fast we can actually get from place to place on campus by foot. Because of the compact nature of the Tempe campus there isn’t that far to travel to get to class. With the vast majority of commute times under seven minutes walking, it’s not that big of a difference in time for someone to walk versus riding a bike or skateboard. This, plus the fact that you are getting much better exercise makes walking all the more worthwhile. I get that everyone’s in a hurry now and again, but sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy a trek to class, with no rush or sense of urgency, and walking is definitely the best way to do that.


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