ASU researchers help forge the path for biking in Tempe

These ASU programs are helping researchers plan bicycle-friendly cities

A pair of ASU-led programs is putting the pedal to the metal on bike lane development in Tempe. The University has recently implemented a new round of bike initiatives to promote biking and  bike safety around the Tempe campus.

The two most prominent initiatives are bike counters recently installed on Forest Avenue, University Drive, Apache Boulevard and College Avenue and the creation of a website, Bikemaps, designed by Trisalyn Nelson the director of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Bike counters are devices installed on sidewalks near bike lanes that measure and display bike traffic. Matthew Conway, a doctoral student who researches urban transportation, said these counters help bikers feel a "sense of camaraderie” and help people see biking as a common way to get around.

"People who aren't biking can see it as more of a commonplace acceptable behavior rather than something that a certain class of people do," Conway said.

From a research perspective, Conway said the counters offer an efficient method to help urban planners determine the success of bike lanes. These efforts are needed, he said, as the student biking population grows.

Calvin Thigpen, a postdoctoral research associate who studies travel behaviors and urban planning, said Tempe has seen a seven percent increase, from 10 to 17 percent, in students who bike to campus over the past three years. He said Tempe is one of the most bike active locations in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. 

Bikemaps is website that maps out the most dangerous spots for bicyclists and provides data regarding bike accidents. Deborah Salon, an assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, said that data is priceless for riders and city officials.

"Once you get a lot of people self-reporting, for say a city or a metro area, you can convey a very important and convincing set of data that then planning officials can use to figure out how to prioritize their safety-related infrastructure upgrades," Salon said.

Read More: Tempe and ASU team up to provide new transportation options

Salon said if more people biked in Tempe, it would “significantly reduce" traffic congestion, since bikes take up less space on roads, leaving more room for additional infrastructure.

Biking even has the potential to help Tempe's economy. Research has shown that in areas where people bike more, Conway said, it is "really good for those businesses because people window shop,” which in turn generates a better economy due to the amount of money being spent.

Reach the reporter at or follow @jay_mistry52 on Twitter.

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