Virginia Tech is a school that consists of a variety of cultures and there is never a better time to learn about other cultures than when you’re in college. One of the opportunities to do so is on Wednesday night at Sycamore Deli who also hosts a variety of events throughout the school year. Located in downtown Blacksburg, Sycamore Deli turns down the lights and turns up the music for Salsa Night.
Those that don’t know how to dance can come early and get lessons from a group called Salsa Tech. Sebastian Andrade, who helps lead Salsa Tech talked about the importance of being familiar with different cultures and what Salsa Tech.
“The main mission for Salsa Tech is to promote the Latin-American culture. We want to take it out there for people to have it,” he said. Andrade also noted the importance of sharing the history behind dancing and festive celebrations with those that may not be familiar with it.
The idea of bringing together different cultures has even been visible from Virginia Tech. In 2015 Virginia Tech announced a new commitment to increasing diversity and bringing in more student from different backgrounds.
This idea of creating awareness about different cultures goes hand-in-hand with the local businesses who need more business during the week. Shift manager Michelle Berry thinks Salsa Night has been a hit for the past few years.
“I’ve been working Salsa Night for three and half years now. You see people that come their first time and don’t know anything and now they’re on the stage dancing,” she said.
Salsa Night shows no sign of slowing down especially as the student population continues to grow. For Andrade, his love of salsa dancing is in his veins and comes from his family.
Virginia Tech has grown continuously over the years. With an increased student population comes increased revenue. However, that also meant increased traffic and a need for additional transportation methods. Luckily for Virginia Tech, Deborah Freed, who works for the school, recognized this problem in 2000 when she created the Alternative Transportation program.
One of the programs associated with the Alternative Transportation program is the Hokie Bike Hub which is located on Perry Street.
Alternative Transportation Assistant Chitti Raju has seen the biking community increase over the past few years at Virginia Tech.
“I think with more students, the number of bicycles will continue to increase,” he said. “People are realizing it’s an easier way to get around and to campus.”
Raju contributes the growth in cyclists to the size of the campus and the traffic which makes it safer to bike than in a heavily populated metro area.
The Hokie Bike Hub is one of the contributing factors to Virginia Tech being named a bicycle-friendly campus. Raju says The Bike Hub helps students repair problems with their bikes and according to student intern Mary Frazier it all starts with the willingness to learn.
“Having these tools for free is amazing because these are some very specific tools,” she said. “It empowers you to fix your own bike and learn more. The biggest part is learning how to fix your bike.”
The Bike Hub maintains a consistent flow of customers, especially while the weather is suitable but there are still those that brave the elements.
“Whenever it gets colder there’s less people that come in…but people that come in have more stuff going on,” said Frazier.
Raju talked about the idea of creating a “self-sustaining bicycle culture,” and the mission for the Bike Hub.
“Our goal is to get people and keep people on bicycles,” he said. “The idea of the alternative transportation department is to support and grow the community that takes any form of transportation that isn’t one person in a car.”
“What makes this place so awesome to bike, is the area itself because it’s so beautiful,” said Frazier.
There are other programs in the New River Valley that help promote cycling. The NRV Bike Kitchen is a non-profit organization in Christiansburg, “that distributes bicycles to those that can’t afford other means of transportation,” according to Raju.
With programs such as these and a campus that is focusing on alternative transportation, it’s no wonder why Virginia Tech’s cycling community is continuing to pick up speed.
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 29 – Bicycle racks on campus can be packed especially when the weather is favorable. Photo: Nathan Loprete
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 29 – Learning how to fix your bicycle is one of the main focus points at the Bike Hub. Photo: Nathan Loprete
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 29 – Fixing a problem with a bicycle can be hard, given the small parts that come with the bike. Photo: Nathan Loprete
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 29 – Cyclists, drivers, and buses have to interact on a daily basis around campus. Photo: Nathan Loprete
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 29 – The Bike Hub supervises students as they fix their bicycle in case any assistance is needed. Photo: Nathan Loprete
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 29 – The Bike Hub offers an abundance of tools to repair problems. Photo: Nathan Loprete
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 29 – Crosswalks and bike lanes helped Virginia Tech become a “bicycle friendly university.” Photo: Nathan Loprete
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 29 – The Alternative Transportation building is located on Perry Street by the parking garage. Photo: Nathan Loprete