How do you get to class? There are a lot of options. Maybe you longboard, walk, bus, or bike. If you bike and are not signed up for the Bike to Campus program, you may want to consider trying it out. “Bike to Campus” is a University of Minnesota program designed to motivate students and staff to bike to work or class. Promoting earth friendliness and fitness, the Bike to Campus program began at the U of M Twin Cities campus. It came to UMD when the staff and the Office of Sustainability began searching for a way to reward staff for taking alternate transportation to work. The staff tested out the program this summer, and this fall is the first time it has been offered to students.
Bryan French heads the program at UMD. It began when French wrote a grant with Pat Keenan and presented it to the chancellor, who approved it. The program cost $5,000.
Staff and students who choose to participate have their bikes equipped with a tracker, which they can get installed on their bike for free from French himself in the Office of Sustainability, or at the RSOP rental office. When a student bikes past one of the two solar powered “zappers” on campus, their mileage is tracked for the day. A student can enter how far they have to bike to school, and the system doubles that, assuming they are biking back home. Each participant gets an online profile which tells them how far they have biked, how many points they have, and tracks which days they have biked.
The university studied what they believed to be the most frequently traversed entrances to campus and placed the zappers accordingly. The bike zappers are located on University Drive. One is between the Darland building and the Lund heating plant, the other is near Stadium apartments.
Dero, a Twin Cities company, makes the zappers and provides the system.
If you bike to school eight times or more a month, you are entered into a drawing for $100 of prizes from Ski Hut, Twin Ports Cyclery, or Continental Bike Shop.
If you are ambitious and bike to school eight times a month all semester long, you are entered to win a bike worth $500 from a local bike shop.
So why bike versus walking or taking the bus? French stressed the freedom that comes with taking a bike, saying it lets you arrive and leave on your own time.
“The bicycle is the most efficient type of transit that exists,” French said. “The benefit is that you are more attuned to the natural world.”
French not only talks the talk, he walks the walk—or bikes it. He bikes to work every morning.
“It’s fun, you have the wind on your face,” said French, who bikes past Hawk Ridge on his way to work.
Perhaps you are someone who wants to bike to school, but is intimidated by the hills. The Bike to Campus program accepts you. The DTA is also more than accommodating to cyclists, providing year-round bike racks on the front of the bus.
The same day French was interviewed, a total of 27 riders had checked in with the Ride to Campus program.
With about 12,000 students and many staff, that number is relatively small. Granted, the program is in its first semester, but imagine how many cyclists you see every day on campus.
If you do participate in the program, there is one more incentive. Riders can build teams of two or more riders, and the team with the most miles biked at the end of each month wins a $50 gift certificate to Bulldog Pizza. Currently there are no teams signed up, so if you decide to make a team, your odds of winning are stellar. Contact French at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in forming a team.
All information can be found at derozap.com/UMD.
BY ELIZABETH BROWN email@example.com