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Sources: Stephanie Rolley, 785-532-5961, srolley@k-state.edu;
and Ben Champion, 785-313-3085, champion@k-state.edu

Friday, Aug. 20, 2010

STUDENT PROJECT TO MAKE BIKING MORE ACCESSIBLE, SAFER IN MANHATTAN

MANHATTAN -- The first class assignment for around 180 Kansas State University students could help Manhattan become a greener, healthier and more bike-friendly community.

The students, all in K-State's landscape architecture and regional and community planning programs, will participate in Design Days: Cruise, Commute, Connect, Aug. 23-25. Their assignment is to identify barriers to getting around Manhattan safely on bicycles. Their end result will be a map of the city's bicycle resources and needs, as well as creative design proposals to address those needs.

Now in its second year, Design Days are a start-of-the-school-year event for students and faculty in the department of landscape architecture and regional and community planning.

"The event brings the creativity and skills of planning and landscape architecture students together to address community planning and design dilemmas while learning about the power of collaboration and teamwork," said Stephanie Rolley, professor and head of the department.

This year's project is a collaborative, interdisciplinary effort. Faculty from the planning and landscape architecture programs; Ben Champion, director of sustainability; and Michael Wesch, associate professor of cultural anthropology, helped develop the event and are assisting with it. Both Champion and Wesch are biking enthusiasts; Champion is also a member of the city of Manhattan's Bicycle Advisory Committee.

Teams of students will be assigned one of 19 different areas in Manhattan. Through on-site visits each team will address four key questions about biking accessibility and safety:

* Can a biker get to the K-State campus from that area?

* Are there safe routes for children to ride their bikes to their nearby elementary school?

* Can neighborhood residents bike to shopping areas that offer healthy foods?

* Can neighborhood residents bike to their closest city park?

Information collected by each team will be turned over to a student mapping team led by Wesch. One outcome of the project will be a comprehensive bike map of Manhattan posted at http://bikemanhattan.info. The map will show safety ratings for all streets; bicycle amenities such as bike racks, bathrooms and drinking fountains; and all bike paths, including ones created by fellow cyclists that may not be on official city maps. The map will soon be available for mobile phones as well.

The public is invited to an interactive exhibit of the students' proposed improvements to the city's biking infrastructure and amenities from 4:30-6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 25, in the K-State Alumni Center Ballroom. Also viewing the work will be the city's Bicycle Advisory Committee, which is holding its monthly meeting concurrently with the exhibit.