Fighting Car Culture – Colleges Give Free Bikes To Frosh

This came up in The New York Times:

Published: October 19, 2008

BIDDEFORD, Me. — When Kylie Galliani started at the University of New England in August, she was given a key to her dorm, a class schedule and something more unusual: a $480 bicycle.

“I was like, ‘A free bike, no catch?’ ” Ms. Galliani, 17, a freshman from Fort Bragg, Calif., asked. “It’s really an ideal way to get around the campus.”

University administrators and students nationwide are increasingly feeling that way too.

The University of New England and Ripon College in Wisconsin are giving free bikes to freshmen who promise to leave their cars at home. Other colleges are setting up free bike sharing or rental programs, and some universities are partnering with bike shops to offer discounts on purchases.

The goal, college and university officials said, is to ease critical shortages of parking and to change the car culture that clogs campus roadways and erodes the community feel that comes with walking or biking around campus.

“We’re seeing an explosion in bike activity,” said Julian Dautremont-Smith, associate director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, a nonprofit association of colleges and universities. “It seems like every week we hear about a new bike sharing or bike rental program.”

Read The Full Article HERE.

This kind of thing is an excellent way to help break the mindset that you NEED a car.

There are two problem I could see coming up with this type of program.

1. Theft: Always a big issue on a college campus (particularity here at the U of M). The article states that students are also given locks, but some extra measure would need to be taken to have the bikes in a secure area overnight.

2. Service: Bikes aren’t toys. Like any vehicle they require a sense of responsibility, and maintaining the equipment is a big part of that. The schools would need to enter into a relationship with a local shop who agrees to provide routine maintanence to the bikes for an annual fee.

I would imagine that the schools get the bikes directly through a manufacturer which means that the local shop is loosing out on bike sales (not good), but if they were contracted by the school to provide maintenance, that would be a way for the local shop to support the program and not get burned on the loss of sales. Shops would also benefit on building a relationship with the student for other bike related needs.

There would need to be a clear guidelines on what the school will pay for with regard to the maintenance, and what they won’t (new chains annually, new rubber when needed), so that student don’t go dirt jumping and expect the school to pay for new wheels when they trash them (let’s face, it 17 and 18 year-olds are generally irresponsible and foolish), but as long as students agree to be generally responsible for the upkeep and security of the bike, I think this is a great new step.

If a student gets trough four years at school sans car, I’d be willing to be, they would carry that habit into their work-a-day livlihood.


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Rich said,

    When I was at UC-Davis, they had a bike rental/repair shop on campus where students could rent, buy, fix, or work on bikes. It was very convenient. Also, the school could hire/train high school kids who are seeking vocational/tech experience.

  2. 2

    rich said,

    here is the link to the UC Davis Bike Barn

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