UI Office of Sustainability sponsors bike commuter challenge


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With spring rolling around, cyclists are unlocking the chains and peddling across Iowa City — and University of Iowa faculty and staff members are counting every mile.

The UI Office of Sustainability’s first Bike Commuter Challenge started April 1. The Sustainability Office, the Bicycle Advocacy Committee, and the Urban & Regional Planning Student Association sponsored the monthlong event as a part of several sustainability programs going on for Earth Month.

Kehla West, a second-year graduate student and a founding member of the Bicycle Advocacy Committee, organized the challenge to create a fun way to engage students and faculty to think about alternative ways of transportation.

“Some days, I have trouble wanting to ride my bike to school, so I thought this would be a fun way to involve on-the-fence cyclists, such as myself,” she said.

Every week, the total numbers of miles are calculated for each team, and the one with the largest number of miles wins T-shirts. The grand prize winning team will be announced at the end of the month and receive a trophy.

Emails were sent out to only faculty and staff; however, students are able to participate in the challenge as well. Many departments are involved in the challenge, including the Tippie College of Business, the UI Libraries, Facilities Management, and the UI Hospitals & Clinics.

“I commute on my bike every day,” said Andrew Lynch, a supply chain assistant for the Chemistry Department and member of the Bicycle Advocacy Committee. “I knew quite a few people that biked and thought it would be a neat idea to do.”

There are currently 36 teams enrolled in the challenge.

However, the challenge is more than simple competition.

Liz Christiansen, the director of the Sustainability Office, said the competition also helps raise awareness to alternative transportation.

“This competition targets one of the series of sustainability [goals] that the office has,” she said. “We are trying to reduce carbon impact by walking and biking.”

George McCrory, a communications specialist at the Sustainability Office, said plenty of faculty and staff members commute to the UI via cycling, and the university is responding to their needs through this challenge.

“The Department of Parking and Transportation is trying to reach out to bike commuters and the kind of resources they would need,” he said.  “Two new bike-repair stations were added to the campus, one by [the Adler Journalism Building] and another by the hospitals and clinics.”

Officials encourage students and faculty to continue riding their bikes and finding alternative ways of transportation.

“We know we have folks who regularly bike to work, and we want to help increase that number and increase growth in interest on campus and around the community,” Christiansen said.

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