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Social and Secure:
The Way to Increased Bike Ridership
The Ohio State University
School of Environment and Natural Resources
Table of Contents
Executive Summary 1
Why Transportation Matters 2
Transportation at Ohio State 4
Transportation in Columbus 6
Current Barriers to Increased Ridership 8
Peripheral Amenities 9
Information and Engagement 9
Social Marketing 10
Security and Peripherals 15
The Ohio State University prides itself on being a community and national leader
dedicated to sustainability. Over the past several years, there has been a concerted
effort to reduce the University’s impact on the environment and improve local
ecosystems. As part of these efforts, the University has admirably pledged to become
carbon-neutral by 2050. To achieve this goal, the University has committed itself
to developing a pedestrian-friendly academic core. These goals are reliant upon a
decrease in automobile commuters to Ohio State’s main campus.
This transportation challenge must be approached from many angles. One angle is to
increase the number of bicycle commuters. Among students, faculty, and staff who live
1 to 5 from campus, only 6% commute by bicycle, while 64% drive alone (Akar & Flynn,
2011). Within 5 miles is generally considered to be an appropriate cycling distance for a
daily commute. Despite this, many cyclists are deterred from commuting to campus for
several reasons. The primary reasons given against a bicycle commute are inclement or
unpleasant weather, insufficient bicycle security, and concerns about safety on the road
(Akar & Flynn, 2011). Addressing these concerns will help to increase bicycle ridership
among nearby commuters.
By implementing measures to improve the security of bicycles on campus, address
safety concerns, and create general appeal, Ohio State may reaffirm its leadership
position. Increased bicycling is a big step in decreasing automobile traffic and helping
the University to reach its sustainability goals.
The Ohio State University is a growing community with many diverse needs. Among
these needs is a sustainable transportation system which efficiently serves the students,
faculty, and staff. To determine how such a system is best developed, it is useful to
examine the current state of transportation in the area.
Why Transportation Matters
For the past 90 years, automobile use has increased steadily with over 3 trillion vehicle
miles traveled in 2007 (Federal Highway Administration, 2009). Even with more
efficient and cleaner-burning engines, driving is the most polluting daily activity for
individuals, causing the release of carbon dioxide, habitat degradation, dangerous
air pollution, and chemical run-off from roads. This picture may look bleak, but there
is hope. From personal to federal, from environmental to financial, transportation
is an issue that can be addressed at many different levels and from many different
approaches. The Ohio State University has the inspiration and influence to create
Many of the impacts of high automobile usage are local, therefor decreasing automobile
usage locally benefits the community and improves the surrounding environment (San
Francisco Department of Public Health [SFDPH], 2009). There are many ways to
decrease the use of automobiles. Among these are creating better public transportation
services and increasing zero-emission modes of transportation, such as bicycling and
walking. For trips of only a few miles or less, bicycling is a particularly attractive option.
A reduction in automobile traffic in favor of alternative forms of transportation is not only
environmentally beneficial, but is safer, healthier, and more cost effective. Fewer cars
on the road results in fewer automobile-related accidents, and also reduces pollutants in
the air. Smog caused by automobile traffic is responsible for allergy symptoms, asthma,
and an increased risk of cancer (SFDPH, 2009). Bicycle commuting is often viewed
as a dangerous mode of transportation, but bicycle accidents account for less than 2%
of all traffic fatalities in the US (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2009).
Furthermore, a 2011 study done in Barcelona, Spain, found that an increase in bicycling
through bicycle-promotion programs causes an overall reduction in population mortality
(Rojas-Rueda, de Nazelle,Tainio, & Nieuwenhuijsen, 2011).
By improving health and safety, alternative modes of transportation save money for
individuals and communities. Increased use of alternative modes also saves money
more directly by reducing the amount spent on automobile insurance, maintenance, and
fuel. According to CompleteStreets.org, “Transportation is the second largest expense
for American households, costing more than food, clothing, and health care.”
The Ohio State University has the resources and drive to make a considerable
difference in the local community. Promoting alternative modes of transportation, and
bicycling in particular, will improve the health of the local environment, commuters, and
others in the community. It will save money and lives, and the University can be proud
that it is doing its part to reduce carbon emissions.
Transportation at Ohio State
Ohio State Transportation and Parking Services issued a survey in 2011 to learn more
about the ways students, faculty, and staff travel to and around campus. What they
discovered was that the primary mode of transportation for commuters was driving
alone. Even within five miles of campus, 36% of respondents claimed to regularly
commute by car. Meanwhile, only about 13% of respondents claimed to regularly
commute to campus by bicycle.
Figure 1. Modal Split Off-Campus (Akar & Flynn, 2011).
Figure 2. Modal Split for Respondents within 5 Miles of Campus (Akar & Flynn, 2011).
The high number of drivers is not only threatening to health and the environment, but
also to safety on campus. Ohio State has begun taking measures to mitigate the risks
that exist when modes of transportation are heavily mixed. Woody Hayes Drive, and
17th Avenue are both currently under construction to narrow the roadway and widen
the sidewalks. This alleviates pedestrian congestion and also reduces the speed and
volume of cars driving on these roads. Similar changes are intended for other streets
in the campus area. In addition to these major infrastructure changes, Ohio State is
currently in the process of standardizing all transportation-related signs on campus. If
students, faculty, and staff can all understand the best way to travel safely on campus, it
will minimize the number of accidents that occur. There are still many steps that need to
be taken for Ohio State to achieve its transportation goals.
The One Ohio State Framework Plan is Ohio State’s planning document for both
short and long term projects. In this document, The University recognizes the need
to promote alternative modes of transportation and presents goals for developing a
sustainable transportation infrastructure. The primary goal is to create a “pedestrian-
oriented core campus” and reduce the amount of commuter traffic to the area (The Ohio
State University [OSU], 2010). A revised transportation system is necessary to achieve
The Framework Plan presents some changes that will be included in this revised
transportation system. One of the plans is to move surface parking facilities to West
Campus and increase the rate for parking passes to better represent the true costs of
parking (OSU, 2010).
The Framework plan also describes a series of suggestions intended to make bike
riding a more attractive option for students, faculty, and staff. Bike security and the lack
of bike parking infrastructure have always been deterrents to people who are thinking
about biking to campus (Akar & Flynn, 2011). The Framework Plan addresses these
concerns by suggesting additional bike parking infrastructure. This infrastructure will
include bicycle reservoirs which will be able to hold about 200 bikes and will be located
near residence halls and areas of high pedestrian traffic. There will also be increased
small bike parking areas added around most of the academic buildings on campus. The
Framework Plan even mentions the possibility of adding bike parking infrastructure into
existing on-campus parking facilities. This means the bikes can be monitored at night by
whoever is working at the parking facility (OSU, 2010).
Increasing bike ridership will also help Ohio State achieve its goal of becoming a
sustainable campus. Commuter traffic currently accounts for about 3% of the carbon
emissions on campus (Akar & Flynn, 2011). The transition of students, faculty, and staff
from driving to campus to biking to campus is not all that is needed to achieve this goal.
There needs to be broader scale institutional changes throughout the university. There
needs to be increased education on what sustainability is, why it’s important, and how
to achieve it on campus. Increasing bike ridership is just one of many steps that need to
be taken for Ohio State to achieve its goal for sustainability.
Transportation in Columbus
The University is not alone in its ambition to promote alternative modes of
The City of Columbus has a bikeway master plan that focuses on developing
infrastructure to increase bike ridership in the city. One aspect of this plan is focused
on making recommendations for developing future bike lanes (City of Columbus,
2007). Ohio State is working with Columbus to make sure these paths flow into the
bike pathways on and around campus. A bike pathway system that correlates to the
surrounding areas will increase the convenience for those choosing to bike to campus.
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), the City of Columbus, and
Ohio State are working together to develop an integrated street system to facilitate
the use of bicycles in central Ohio. The MORPC developed the Complete Streets
program for new transportation infrastructure in central Ohio. The goal of the policy is
to make sure streets can properly and safely accommodate all forms of transportation,
including bicycles. Over the last forty years, central Ohio streets were built solely to
serve the automobile (MORPCSafety, 2011). The region is just now transitioning the
infrastructure due to changes in the way people travel. Many of the streets in Central
Ohio are undergoing renovations focused on designs that are appealing to alternative
forms of transportation. According to regional planners, one of the major hurdles to
the redevelopment is adhering to zoning codes passed long ago. While the MORPC
begins the laborious process of developing new infrastructure, the City of Columbus has
already started implementing programs to encourage alternative transportation modes.
The Columbus Share the Road campaign aims to remind automobile drivers,
cyclists, and motorists how to share the road legally and safely (Ohio Department of
Transportation [ODOT], 2010). In June, 2010, the City of Columbus began installing
over 180 bike sharrow pavement markings on High Street. Sharrows are pavement
markings in streets which serve to remind motorists, motorcyclists, and bicycle riders
that bike riders are entitled to the whole lane (Fig. X). They do not give any additional
privileges to the rider.
Figure 3. Sharrows on N. High St., Columbus (T&P, 2011).
The markings extend from Morse Rd. to Nationwide Blvd, passing along the east board
of the Ohio State campus. Mayor Michael B. Coleman explained the installation of
the sharrows was due to a desire, “to make Columbus the best bike city in the nation”
(ODOT, 2010). The Share the Road campaign is part of Columbus’s Bicentennial
Bikeways Plan which will include nearly 90 more miles of bike paths and lanes to be
built in the city.
Ohio State has brought the Share the Road campaign onto campus. Currently, 66
sharrows have been installed on five campus streets: Woodruff Ave., College Rd., 12th
Ave., Neil Ave., and John Herrick Dr (Transportation and Parking, 2011).). Ohio State
has supplemented these sharrows with “Share the Road” signage to spread awareness
about the program. The sharrows on Ohio State’s campus are meant to serve the same
function as the sharrows in Columbus, to encourage the safe sharing of streets between
all types of travelers.
Current Barriers to Increased Ridership
For Ohio State to reach its goal of a pedestrian friendly campus, it must reduce
automobile traffic. There is a large number of students who live within five miles of
campus and drive. This demographic is the one best suited to switching to bicycle
commuting. To instigate this switch, and transform transportation at Ohio State,
there are several possible solutions. Factors that deter cycling must be alleviated or
removed, and factors that encourage cycling must be bolstered. New bike lanes and
paths would be an obvious step to increase safety and convenience, but this would
require a large investment in new infrastructure. Fortunately, there are several more
cost-effective ways to alleviate commuter concerns about cycling.
According to the survey published by Transportation and Parking Services, the number
one reason why students who live within 5 miles of campus do not use alternative
modes of transportation is extreme weather conditions (Akar & Flynn, 2011). Weather
in the central Ohio region has long been considered erratic by its residents and prevents
many students from biking instead of driving. Safety, comfort, and convenience are
all adversely affected by weather such as rain, sleet, hail, and snow. Extremely low
temperatures and wind chill can further deter cyclists.
Figure 4. Most Important Factors in Mode Choice for Auto Users within 5 Miles of Campus (Akar & Flynn,
Peripherals, such as availability of showers, lockers, and safe parking, are often a
critically important factor in the use of bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation
(Thogersen, 2007). Bike security is a large issue on campus, and a high number
of bicycles are stolen every year. Bike racks and bicycle registration are currently
provided by the University, but at this time do not sufficiently deter theft. Bike security
is another major concern for cyclists (Hunt & Abraham, 2007) and thus an investment in
better bike security on campus is a clear necessity.
Ohio State does have many of the peripheral amenities that cyclists value. Showers
and lockers are available at the Recreational and Physical Activity Center and additional
lockers can be found at the Thompson Library. But these are not always advertised to
cyclists, who would benefit greatly from them. Some information on peripherals, such
as bicycle registration, is provided by the University but it is often decentralized and
difficult to find.
Information and Engagement
Information for cyclists is either difficult to locate or non-existent. Information must be
easy to find, easy to read, and relevant to cyclists’ needs. The most visible information
related to cycling at Ohio State is the sharrow signage on the roads. There are also
some sandwich-board signs that have recently appeared to remind drivers, cyclists,
and pedestrians of proper road and sidewalk etiquette. Further information on bicycle
safety, available peripherals, and bike-friendly routes must be actively sought.
The Transportation and Parking Services website (tp.osu.edu) is the primary source
for bicycle and other travel related information. However, the resources included here
are scant and difficult to sort through. For instance, a comprehensive bicycle amenities
map is available under the “Maps” link, but not through any links associated with
bicycling. Some other bicycle information is available, but only through a three-step
navigation tree. Even this does not link to any of the information on bicycle promotion
programs that do exist at Ohio State.
With such poor accessibility to information, it is not surprising that more students and
staff are not encouraged to adopt new commuting behaviors.
Inclement weather, high theft rates of bicycles, and lack of accessible information are
the main barriers to cycling as a primary mode of travel to campus. There is evidence
that these can be combated effectively with well-planned marketing programs and
strategic placement of peripheral bicycle infrastructure. These solutions can be
relatively efficient and cost-effective in comparison to new, large-scale infrastructure
changes. Larger changes should be considered for the future, but improvements which
are lower-cost and easier to implement will have a significant impact right away.
Improvements in bicycle peripherals will benefit current cyclists, and encourage
bicycling among students and staff who have considered cycling, or cycle occasionally.
It will not, on its own, give rise to an increase in bicycle commuting among individuals
who have never given it much thought. Peripheral and amenity improvements must
be coupled with programs which actively promote bicycling as a preferable mode of
Understanding Social Marketing
Social Marketing was first defined by Kolter and Zaltman as, “the design,
implementation, and control of programs calculated to influence the acceptability of
social ideas and involving considerations of product planning, pricing, communication,
distribution, and marketing research” (1971). More simply put, it is marketing to
promote a social good, rather than a commodity to be sold.
A great deal has been written about social marketing , and it has been utilized in
different ways to encourage many different changes in behavior. Social marketing can
come in different forms, depending on the intended emphasis of the campaign. Doug
McKenzie-Mohr recommends community-based social marketing to encourage the
adoption of environmentally sustainable behaviors (2000).
Community-based social marketing takes a four-step approach to changing audience
behavior. These steps are:
. . . uncovering barriers to behaviors and then, based upon this information,
selecting which behavior to promote; designing a program to overcome the
barriers of the selected behavior; piloting the program; and then evaluating it
once it is broadly implemented. (McKenzie-Mohr, 2000, p.546).
In the past, environmental advocates have attempted to promote sustainable behavior
changes through information-intensive social marketing campaigns. Information-
intensive campaigns make the assumption that people do not engage in sustainable
behavior because they are not properly aware of the environmental impact. However,
the barriers to sustainable behavior are not so simple. A community-based approach is
superior, particularly for encouraging a behavior with as many and complex barriers as
biking (McKenzie-Mohr, 2000).
Applying Social Marketing
Using social marketing to promote bicycle commuting is not a unique concept. One
successful program is discussed by John Thorgersen. In the 1990s, Nottingham,
UK established a program which promoted bicycling through “a number of means,
including substantive changes in facilities for cyclists, publicity and information material,
promotional events, and social interventions” (2007). A program with similar elements
is recommended for Ohio State.
The first step in establishing a community-based social marketing program to promote
bicycle commuting has already been completed. The Transportation and Parking
Campus Travel Pattern Survey Summary Report, as well as additional research,
established the most common and significant barriers to using alternative modes of
transportation at Ohio State. From this information, bicycle ridership was chosen as
a behavior to promote. The next step is to create a program to encourage bicycle
ridership among nearby commuters.
Accessibilty of Information
One of the barriers to increased bicycle commuting is a lack of accurate and easily
accessible information related to cycling. The primary need is not for information about
the environmental or other benefits of cycling, but for information that makes cycling
more accessible. While there are some significant physical barriers to cycling, non-
cyclists have a tendency to perceive a higher number of more intimidating barriers than
do people who bicycle regularly (Bekkum, Williams, & Morris, 2011).
Signage and marketing that make bicycling seem accessible and non-threatening is
necessary to attract the attention and dispel the fears of non-cyclists. This should be
coupled with the advertisement of peripheral infrastructure which will be discussed in
the next sections.
Once commuters are no longer intimidated by the thought of bicycling, they become
potential cyclists who may experiment with a bicycle commute. At this point they will
need a source of information on bicycling best-practices, a guide to available resources,
and a tool to keep them engaged in cycling on personal and social levels. This is best
accomplished through the development of a web-based mobile app.
An App for That
At a public university like Ohio State, internet access is available to everyone. Many
students and staff members have even greater connectivity available to them right in
their pocket. As of December, 2011, nearly 42% of all mobile phones in the US were
smartphones, and that number is continuing to grow (comScore). In a community with
such prolific access to technology, a technological solution is particularly attractive.
An app that is developed for use across smartphone operating systems and also for
use in-browser on a computer will allow for maximum accessibility. Such an app should
include several key features:
● Best Practices: information on rules of the road, bicycle security tips, and safety
● Maps: maps of peripherals on campus, as well as recommended routes
● Social interaction: the ability to “check-in” to locations and to share and rate
specific routes to a destination
● Fitness utilities: tools for monitoring calories-burned and other health impacts by
● Tracking and reporting: the ability to track a GPS-tagged bike, report a bike
stolen, and remember where a bike was parked
● News feed: up-to-date information on cycling-related events and alerts
Figure 5. A mock-up of a potential smartphone app for biking at Ohio State.
An app would not only provide utility and information, but would also enhance
engagement and the sense of community. Furthermore, social “check-in” and
route-sharing features create an opportunity for incentives through game-ification.
An associated point system could be used to provide real or virtual incentives for
The sense of community encouraged through the smartphone app can be even better
promoted through promotional events that become part of the Buckeye tradition. One
of the elements which contributed to the success of the Nottingham cycling program
was participation in cycling-community events. Breakfasts were held for commuters
who rode their bikes to work. Events like that help to build a biking community through
social participation and also draw attention to cycling (Thorgersen, 2007). Incorporating
school-spirit can help to increase the success of bicycle promotion events.
Buckeyethon, a student-led Ohio State philanthropy event, has achieved success
by incorporating school spirit and becoming a school tradition. By appealing to the
interests of the student body, this event has managed to grow each year while raising
hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital (Buckeyethon).
Following the same model of appeal to school spirit and tradition, bicycling events can
successfully draw attention to the benefits and ease of a bicycle commute.
Social tools built into the smartphone app, coupled with Buckeye spirit will contribute
immensely to promoting cycling and building a community of students, faculty, and staff
who value alternative transportation. This is not the complete solution. McKenzie-
Mohr’s community-based social marketing approach calls for the development of a
program to overcome the barriers to bicycle commuting. The smartphone app only
tackles one of the significant barriers to cycling. Security and weather concerns must
also be addressed.
Security and Peripherals
Since security is such an important issue to bicycle commuting, it is imperative to
establish programs and peripherals that are effective at deterring theft. Several
methods successfully utilized at other institutions are described below. A combination
of these methods is recommended to best ensure bicycle security.
Short Term Parking
Portland State University is a model for increased bike ridership among college
campuses. According to the Portland State University Bicycle Transportation Plan, 12%
of all student and employee trips were made by bicycle (Abe, et al., 2011). Portland
State plans to raise this number to 20% by the year 2030 by increasing bicycle parking
and creating additional education, training, and encouragement projects (Abe, et al.,
In 2010, Portland State University conducted a survey of students and employees.
They were asked, “What would encourage you to bike more often or improve your
biking experience?” The answer receiving the most affirmative responses was more
covered bike parking (figure 6).
Covered bike parking protects the rider and the bike from inclement weather, including
rain and intense sunlight. Unlike car engines, a bicycle’s moving parts are almost
always uncovered, rendering them more vulnerable to deterioration when not stored
under shelter (Batterman, 2009). Rain can cause significant damage to bicycles,
including rusting of the chain or gears, or rusting of the bike itself. Exposure to the
elements can not only damage mechanical components, but also wets or overheats
bicycle seats. This creates an unpleasant riding experience. Bike parking should be
placed under existing overhangs whenever possible. Wherever this is not possible,
structures should be built to cover bike parking areas. These can be built at a relatively
Figure 6. Percent of respondents saying yes to each factor (Abe, et al., 2011).
Long Term Parking
Simple shelters over bike parking areas are sufficient to protect bicycles when they are
parked for a shorter amount of time, such as during a class. Greater measures must be
taken to protect bikes when they are parked in one place for a day or more. Indoor bike
garages provide the necessary security for long term bicycle parking. These garages
protect the bikes from weather and theft. They require keycard access to keep out
unwanted people, and also deter theft through twenty-four hour video surveillance.
There are three main strategies when building or creating an indoor bike garage; build
a new facility, install racks and fences in a current car garage, or utilize unused rooms
and spaces in current buildings.
The most expensive method is to build a brand new facility. Portland State has built two
brand new indoor bike garage facilities. The facilities cost roughly $400,000 combined
to construct, and were funded using a combination of school funds and $200,000 in
Metro Regional Transportation Options funds (Abe, et al., 2011). Combined, the two
garages can shelter up to 163 bicycles. Students and employees are allowed to park
in these facilities for a quarterly registration fee of $15. This only generates revenue of
$9,780 a year if all spaces are sold, and would have a payback period of approximately
forty-one years. These numbers may be discouraging, but it is important to keep them
in perspective. The environmental, health, and safety benefits of increased bicycle
ridership must be considered when doing a cost-benefit analysis. It is also important to
note the alternative, car parking structures, can cost twelve to thirty times as much per
vehicle served (Batterman, 2009).
A less expensive option would be to install racks and fences in current car garages.
Boise State University has installed this system into an existing garage on their campus.
The total cost was $13,600 which included the racks, fence, and entrance system
(Macic, 2011). Students are charged fifteen dollars per semester and are guaranteed
a parking spot. Ohio State does already have bicycle racks in and near some of the
parking garages on campus, but these do not have the additional features necessary to
ensure bicycle security.
The least expensive option is to utilize unused rooms and spaces in current buildings.
These rooms can be converted to bike parking with simple racks and installation of
Deterring theft is an important strategy in protecting bicycles on campus. From January
2007 to May 2008 the University of Wisconsin-Madison police department received 100
reports of bike thefts on the UW Madison campus (“UW Madison Police,” n.d.). During
that same period, the police department arrested one person for bicycle theft. The
police department believes that bicycle theft is an under reported crime and the number
of bicycles stolen on campus is considerably higher than the number of bikes reported
stolen each year (“UW Madison Police,” n.d).
In 2008, the University of Wisconsin-Madison started a “bait bike” program. This
program uses GPS equipped bicycles, and places these bicycles in high theft areas.
Police are notified when a bike has been taken, and an officer tracks the bike through
area maps. Other officers are then dispatched to make contact and arrest the thief.
The police department promotes this program through pamphlets that explain what the
program is and stickers that say, “This could be a bait bike” (figure 7). Students and
staff place these stickers on their own bikes and remind thieves that this bike could be a
Figure 7. Sticker used in University of Wisconsin-Madison “Bait Bike” program (“UW Madison Police,”
The UW-Madison Police Department is using the “Bait Bike” program to deter thieves
from preying on students and staff members, and to allow students to have the peace
of mind that if they bring a bike to campus, it will be with them when they leave (“UW
Madison Police,” n.d). UW-Madison has reported a 30 percent reduction each year in
the number of bike thefts on campus because of this program (“New program aimed,”
Bike Service Hub
A centrally located bike hub is important to create a biker friendly campus. When a
student or staff needs to perform maintenance on their bike, they have two options;
they can take it to a commercial bike shop, or do it themselves. The first option can be
inconvenient and costly, and most people lack the skills for the latter option.
University-affiliated bicycle shops and collaborative student-run cooperatives have a
long history on many campuses around the United States (Batterman, 2009). These
facilities do not sell bikes, but instead focus on bike parts and repairs. They also tend
to offer bike repair classes, tools for patron use, and other special programs geared
toward empowering cyclists with knowledge and expertise (Batterman, 2009). These
classes and workshops can include bicycle safety and laws. The hub can serve as the
main point of contact for any bicycle resources that people may need, including handing
out bicycle maps and organizing bicycle events.
Transportation is a complex issue. A comprehensive solution which reconciles Ohio
State’s goals with the needs of students and staff requires many changes to the existing
transportation system. The University can begin to implement an effective solution
without dramatic changes to infrastructure or large financial investments. All it needs to
do is offer commuters a little encouragement, and address the most common barriers to
The following four actions are recommended to resolve these barriers:
● Construction of secure long- and short-term bicycling facilities
● Increased bicycle registration and implementation of a “bait-bike” program
● Development of a high-utility and social smartphone app
● Promotion of cycling through campus-wide events
Increased bicycle commuting will not only help Ohio State to become a more
sustainable institution, but it will also improve the health of commuters, and create a
more connected community.
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