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A blizzard of bicycles
September 8, 2011 - 12:15pm

The Greenback student body hasn't traditionally been much for bicycles. And the school never thought too much about that, given our location. We get winter around here. Lots of it. From December to the end of March, if there's no snow on the roads it's probably because of the freezing (or near-freezing) rain. Not obviously conducive to two-wheeled transportation.

That's about as far as our thinking went until recently. We don't provide winter bicycle storage (don't really have any place to do so), so it was inconvenient for students to bring bikes that we presumed they could only ride for the first couple of months of Fall and the last couple months of Spring semesters.

But then we started to hear about Madison, WI. And Minneapolis, MI. And Toronto, ON. And we started to consider the possibility that what was intuitive wasn't necessarily true.

After a bit of research, Greenback decided to install some simple bicycle racks around campus and see what happened. Most of them went in during the 2010-11 academic year; they didn't initially seem to be triggering much of a change in student behaviors.

But the shiny new racks were obvious to campus visitors, including prospective students and their parents. And some of the campus tour guides took to pointing them out. And, as of this Fall, things are definitely starting to change.

I don't have hard numbers, but my impression is that there are more students riding bicycles to and around campus than at any other time in the past twenty years. By an order of magnitude. Again, I don't really know, but my guess is that a disproportionate number of them are first-year students. Thus, if things work out as we hope, we might see arithmetically similar increases for each of the next few years. Biking to campus might become the "new normal", especially if we can figure out some solution to the winter storage problem.

Or if, as I'm told, studded snow tires for bicycles make winter riding safer than it was when I was an undergraduate.


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