Published on February 19th, 2008 | by Shirley Siluk Gregory


College: Ditch the Four Wheels, We’ll Give You Two

Ripon College president David C. Joyce with his cycling gear. (Photo courtesy of Ripon College.)Ripon College is offering a free Trek mountain bike to new students who come to campus this fall and sign a pledge to leave their cars at home.

Campus officials say their “Ripon Velorution Program” is the first such initiative in the U.S.

A four-year liberal arts college founded in 1851, Ripon College is located in Ripon, Wisconsin. The state is also home to two Trek Bike factories, one in Waterloo and one in Whitewater.

“We obviously live in a car culture,” said Ripon president David C. Joyce, himself an avid cyclist. “That’s not about to change, but if a significant number of students learn that a car isn’t a necessity at this stage of their lives, that’s good enough for us.”

Ripon developed its “Velorution” program — part “revolution,” part “velo” (French for bicycle) — in hopes of avoiding the need to build additional student parking. Instead of laying down more asphalt, the college decided to try buying 200 new bicycles — enough for about two-thirds of the expected 300 first-year students arriving this fall.

New students who agree not to bring a car to campus in 2008-2009 will receive not only a free bike but a helmet and bike lock as well.

“Parking in this case is a distant third to the health and fitness of our students, and responsible energy practices,” Joyce said. “For students, it’s a lifestyle choice. For Ripon College, it’s choosing sustainability over ease and convenience.”

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About the Author

Shirley Siluk Gregory, a transplanted Chicagoan now living in Northwest Florida, represents the progressive half of Green Options' Red, Green and Blue segment. She holds a bachelor's degree in Geological Sciences from Northwestern University but graduated in 1984, just when the market for geologists was flatter than the Florida landscape. Just as well, though: she had little interest in spending her life either in a laboratory or, heaven forbid, an oil field. So, of course, she went into journalism. After extremely low-paying but fun and educational stints at several suburban Chicago weeklies and dailies, Shirley and her then-boyfriend/now-husband Scott found themselves displaced by a media buyout and spending the next several years working as freelancers. Among their credits: The Chicago Tribune, a publication for the manufactured-housing industry, and Web Hosting Magazine, a now-defunct publication that came and went with the dotcom era. Shirley's always been concerned about nature and conservation (and an avid pack-rat, as her family can attest to), but became even more rabidly interested in the environment primarily due to two factors: the growing signs that global warming was real and threatening, and the birth of her son, Noah, in 2003. Suddenly, the prospect of a world that might not be quite as habitable in 40 or 50 years took on a whole new, and personal, meaning. Living where she lives now also helped light the fire of Shirley's environmental awareness: her hometown was severely damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, and beaten up again by Hurricane Dennis in 2005. That, and the fact that she and her family were vacationing in New Orleans until the day before Katrina -- and spent 12 hours driving home for a trip that normally takes 3 -- has made Shirley deeply appreciate how fragile our lifestyles are, and how dependent they are on sound management of natural resources and sustainable living practices. That's why she's become a passionate reader and writer about all things green and sustainable.

4 Responses to College: Ditch the Four Wheels, We’ll Give You Two

  1. It is time for Universities to feature a bicycle tech department, featuring the newest double-suspension bicycles that can subsitute for car travel. America must come to grips w/gridlock; colleges can take the initiative by promoting/teaching bicycle technology. My bike collection is available to the first college who endorses this philosophy. -phil (949)836-5051

  2. Pingback: Travel Green: Bicycling in the City : Sustainablog

  3. Pingback: Back to School Shopping Madness 2: What an Environmentally Concerned College Student Should be Taking to the Dorm : Sustainablog

  4. Sally Robertson says:

    I am a biking librarian at Nashville State Community College in Nashville, TN. I bike about 18 miles round-trip everyday. I love it. I enjoyed reading about your free bike program for Freshman. I wish I could get something like this going in Nashville.

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