As biking has grown from a mode of transportation to a hobby, it has become more popular at Cal Poly and developed its own culture.
The University Police Department (UPD) has seen an increase in bicycle usage, according to UPD’s Associate Director of Transportation Services Marlene Cramer. Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) and UPD are working together this year to install more than 500 additional bike racks around campus by the end of Winter 2018. The League of American Bicyclists awarded the university with a bronze Bicycle Friendly University Award in 2017.
Given the prevalence of biking on campus, it is surprising how few students know about the bike room in the ASI Craft Center, according to industrial engineering senior and bike technician Tyler Mastromattei. Mastromattei works in the bike room three times per week, helping students fix their bikes. The Craft Center is equipped with all the tools needed to fix a flat tire and prevent chains from falling off gears, or for more advanced repairs like replacing cables and derailleur gears. The center also sells patch kits, inner tubes, cables and tires.
Mastromattei is a part of CPCycling, a campus bike club formed in 1972, initially called the Cal Poly Wheelmen and consisting of 25 members. It was formed during what a 1972 Mustang Daily article described as a bicycle boom, a sudden increase in local bike shops from two to five in a year. In 1988, the Wheelmen hosted the Collegiate Road Championships. They also ran the SLO Criterium, a city-wide cycling race, on and off again over the years.
The team has grown to approximately 100 members, 50 to 60 of which are active, according to Mastromattei. The team offers free bike repair every Thursday at Dexter Lawn. This year they won the Western Collegiate Conference for mountain biking but their website says they cater to all cyclists, something which Mastromattei agrees with.
“It’s for anyone who rides bikes,” Mastromattei said.
Materials engineering senior Stanley Goto is in charge of the bike fix at Dexter Lawn. He has been riding bikes since the age of 5, and racing since 11. He goes biking two to three times per week typically, but said he stopped for the time being because he broke his collarbone mountain biking.
“More people on the bikes is better than more people in cars. In terms of their own health, and the health of the environment,” Goto said. “If we can fix bikes, student bikes, make sure that they’re on the road and bike as much as possible rather than commute in a car, I think that’s a good thing.”
Goto’s father taught him how to maintain his bicycle, so he wouldn’t have to rely on others to do his work for him. Now he teaches others to do the same.
Administration has been working to encourage more bike use for years. The Master Plan outlines goals for increasing bicycle use on campus, “encouraging a more complete shift to an active transportation approach — one that emphasizes walking, bikes and buses over cars.”
The 2001 Master Plan sought to reduce car use by increasing the number of on-campus residents, closing roads throughout campus and turning them into pedestrian and bicycle paths and moving parking away from the center of campus. The 2017 Master Plan states that the number of per capita commuter parking permits was halved between 2001 and 2011.
The new plan calls for more bike paths to continue this shift because, according to Cramer, parking space is inefficient and contributes to 50 percent of the university’s carbon emissions.
With these on-campus resources and the school’s goals to increase alternative forms of transportation, Cal Poly’s bike culture will have the chance to flourish.
“You don’t need a fancy bike,” Goto said. “You don’t need to be doing this epic mountain bike rides or road rides down the coast or whatever. You can just pedal along on any bike around and go have fun, see the world, meet other people.”