Georgia Lodewyk— Staff Writer
The average car emits 25 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon of gas and takes up one parking space (or two, if you are bad at parking).
You know what does not waste gas or take up space? A bike.
It is efficient. It is timeless. It is a resource colleges around the world are tapping into. In the past few years, colleges have partnered with local bike shops for discounts and offered incentives to bike-using students. The University of New England and Ripon College in Wisconsin even offer a free bicycle to anyone who does not bring a car to campus.
The most common way to utilize bikes on university campuses are through bike share systems, according to Alta transportation medium. Keene State College’s “Green Bikes” program uses a library-style system to check out bikes. Other universities, such as Washington State, use bike kiosk stations to check bikes in and out. Bike shares around the nation, in cities and in universities alike, have proven cost-effective and a worthwhile investment.
And it is something we really need to bring to Dordt University. Here is why.
Sioux Center has the perfect demographic for bike users. Students from far away are less likely to have cars, and people with cars want to save gas money. Many of the able-bodied young adults at Dordt would probably rather ride a bicycle than a car. It would save students time trying to find a spot in Little Italy or Siberia every time there’s a run to Fareway for groceries or the Fruited Plain for a coffee. Replace some of those cars with bikes, and students have a quicker alternative to get around.
Imagine the community-building opportunities bikes could create. It provides students with a new option to explore more of what Sioux Center has to offer. Friends can bike together to parks, churches, and local businesses. Bikes could serve an on-campus purpose as well as off-campus, engaging the Dordt student body engaged with the Sioux Center community. It is a new activity to bring people together on a warm Saturday afternoon or after a long day of classes. While nothing can replace a nice walk around the prairie, imagine the spike in student engagements with a new and improved Dordt walk: The “Dordt Bike”. I think the name has a nice ring to it.
It is also impossible to ignore the health benefits of bike riding. For years, doctors and cycle enthusiasts have praised the low-impact workout bike riding provides. Bicycling reduces chances for strokes, heart attacks, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, according to the University of Nevada Reno. But, I think one of the most important benefits of bike riding is its impact on mental health. A bike ride is a pathwar to the stillness of nature. It’s about getting away from a bogged-down, busy lifestyle and allowing students to live in the present. Both being outside and exercising have health benefits that can reduce depression, anxiety and lead to an improved well-being.
Could a bike rental system be possible on a campus like Dordt? Health and human performance professor, Craig Stiemsma, thinks it could be a very real possibility with great cardiovascular benefits and benefits to being outdoors.
“This would be a tremendous thing! We could have two open sessions, all fall semester, and then spring break through graduation,” Stiemsma said. “We could have 6 or 7 bays with 10-12 lock and unlock mechanisms. You could unlock it with your Dordt ID. That would also allow us to track lost or stolen bikes and charge students only if they don’t bring the bike back.”
Stiemsma also sees this as an opportunity to create new work-studies to oversee the process, and possibly sponsorships to help pay for the bikes.
If Dordt organized their own bike-share system, it could be monitored securely, providing students a safer way to get around campus and to activities faster. So many students—from student teachers to agriculture majors to nursing students with clinicals—could utilize bikes within their field of study. Though Dordt University is small compared to The University of New England or Washington State, maybe it is about time we utilized the benefits of bike riding and start thinking about what opportunities this new addition to our campus would create.