This semester, university students, professors and staff are riding bicycles in record numbers. As campuses expand, gas prices surge, and parking spaces dwindle, more bikes are being put to use to travel to and from classes, office hours, club meetings, sporting events, and social hangouts.
“The bicycle is an incredible invention, providing fast, inexpensive transportation while enhancing fitness,” a University of Pennsylvania administrator who bikes to work said in a recent Daily Pennsylvanian report about the rise in faculty and staff ridership. “I can’t imagine sitting in a car back and forth to work, and then having to drive to a gym to get exercise. I’d never do that.”
One effort being put into place or expanded at an increasing number of schools to meet spoke-and-wheel demand: Bicycle-sharing programs.
For example, at Michigan’s Oakland University, a single bike with bad brakes has grown over the past two years into a campus-wide initiative featuring a fleet of more than 250 pink women’s bicycles available for student use free of charge. As The Oakland Post reports, “They may be pink, but these trusty transporters demand some respect.”
A similar sharing program exists at New York University. It offers free bikes and training for those looking to tackle the campus and city on two wheels. “The growth of the Bike Share program is important because not only is it a clean, healthy way to travel, but it also encourages community,” the program’s co-founder told Washington Square News staff writer Gentry Brown. “I’ve seen students come to trainings with friends, check out bikes together, and use the bike share to go out on picnics and explore the city.”
Both programs, and others like them, operate on the honor system. Riders are trusted to grab the bikes as needed without reservations, keep them in working order while steering and pedaling, and place them in campus racks when their trips are through.
However, the vehicles are at times abandoned in less convenient spots. As Post staff writer Shelby Reynolds shares, “Students have reported seeing them in a variety of places: on hills, inside buildings, resting on hammocks and in nearby apartment complexes.”
Other occasional difficulties do arise for campus bicyclists. Bike thefts are among the more common crimes at many schools. Asinine drivers, potholes, narrow roads, flat tires, and bad weather also take their toll.
But, in the end, the financial, social, environmental, and health benefits for potential bikers have led more schools to encourage student and staff bicycling.
As a graduate student and bike program manager at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Daily Californian last month during the school’s first Campus Bike Day, “The goal of the campus bicycle initiative is to get more people– students, faculty, and staff at UC Berkeley– to bike to campus. We’re promoting it as a sustainable, healthy, fun mode of transportation.”
What is the bike culture on your campus? Is there a bike sharing program in place? What students and professors endure the longest or most arduous daily bicycling commutes?
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