The League of American Bicyclists on Wednesday named the University of Central Florida as a nationally recognized bicycle-friendly university.

A team of UCF staff and students submitted the university’s application to the organization earlier this year to showcase how the campus is friendly to bicyclists, and earned UCF its first designation from the league.

RJ Mueller, a UCF software developer who’s been riding his bike to work for eight years, spearheaded the submittal of the application.

“Now we have a good base within UCF to grow [our initiatives],” Mueller said.

At UCF, roads are well-maintained and almost all include biking lanes, which help encourage and accommodate cyclists. Plus, the UCF Police Department actively monitors the roads to ensure campus roads are safe and welcoming of more than just motorized vehicles.

In addition to the infrastructure and policing of campus, active organizations such as UCF Cycling and the Spokes Council help grow the cycling culture at UCF. A free bike-rental program through Student Government Association also gives students the ability to cycle around campus instead of drive. So far this year, 5,380 students have used bikes through the system, said Kelly Gill, coordinator of business operations at the Student Union. More than 2,200 bikes also have been repaired through a free on-campus bike repair service for students, she said.

Engineering students in a Total Quality Improvement class during the summer helped evaluate bicycle-friendly initiatives at UCF and submit the application. Student groups were randomly assigned a Facilities & Safety project to analyze and suggest solutions. Despite being selected at random, the students said working towards the initiative quickly turned into a worthwhile venture and more than just a class assignment.

“Being able to help all these people who are passionate about cycling and to see the impact we have on the university – it’s awesome,” said Mitchell Vasquez, a graduate mechanical engineering student who worked on the project. Although not a cyclist himself, Vasquez gets around campus on a longboard and empathizes with cyclists because he often faces the same challenges.

Departments across campus such as the UCF Police Department, Parking Services, Student Union, Student Government Association, Facilities & Safety, and Sustainability Initiatives contributed to the making and submittal of UCF’s bicycle-friendly university application.

UCF joins 182 other universities designated as bicycle-friendly from the League of American Bicyclists.

Those involved hope to grow the cycling culture at UCF by implementing a more robust bike-share program that could, for example, allow students living in nearby apartments to pick up a bicycle at their complex to commute to and from campus. Another goal is to improve the roads immediately outside campus boundaries to further promote and accommodate cycling and pedestrians.

“We can’t just focus on campus because that gap of on-campus versus off-campus can deter and discourage people from riding their bikes to UCF,” said Yara Watson Colon, coordinator in Sustainability Initiatives.

UCF, Orange County and the Florida Department of Transportation have partnered to create a long-term plan to improve the safety and accessibility for cyclists and pedestrians on roads near campus, such as Alafaya Trail and University Boulevard.

For more on bicycle-friendly accommodations at UCF, see here.