One dollar is not much to some folks. It is to others. However, for everyone, one dollar from a vast number of people is enough to do something significant. Grace Kyung, a graduate student studying urban planning at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign considered this before leading a campaign for bicycling on campus. Her idea was to push for a $1 semesterly fee for bicycle programs and infrastructure.
73% of the students favored this idea and the fee passed. So, as a student innovator for bicycle funding in a university setting, she’ll be sharing more at the 2015 National Bike Summit this March, sharing her “big idea.” If you would like to register for the Bike Summit, click here. It is the largest annual gathering of bike advocates in the country.
Folks from Bikeleague.org, website of the League of American Bicyclists, talked more with Grace about her initiative, inquiring, “For other students or staff members interested in pursuing a similar initiative, what advice would you give them?”
If other students or staff members wanted to pursue a similar initiative, I would ask them to pause and reconsider the decision. Creating a fee is not a good solution for anyone, but it was the solution we pursued because we were tired of not seeing any funding come towards bike-related projects. So the students wanted to show the university that students are willing to tax themselves a $1 per semester to see changes happen.
What will the University do to ensure our interests are heard? I would say if it really is the best solution then to start a dialogue. Creating a student fee takes teamwork from everyone on campus. It requires more than those who love bikes to be in support. There has to be support from your student government and so forth in order to see it succeed.
Kyung starts the interview explaining that this started as a job for her. It became more. However, the idea seemed easiest in the beginning:
It became apparent that we were running out of ideas of how to save our beloved Campus Bike Center from closing. We needed to find $50,000 in less than 4 months or else the center would need to make drastic cuts in order to stay open. So I of course took the ‘easiest’ idea that came to me…
From there, everything has been a roller coaster, we’ve hit almost every bump there was possible to postpone the fee from existing. It was through precision and many conversations, I was able to, with the help of a great network of people, in less than a month gather about 2,400 signatures of students showing support to see a vote on the bike fee.
As of this interview (from just over a week ago), the fee still hasn’t taken effect. Kyung smiles, though, about something else:
I can happily say with the energy from the students at UIUC, the Campus Bike Center did not close in June 2014. Instead, we were able to push for funding to come through from the University and have campus tasked with finding a solution to ensure the Center would not be at risk of closing again.
The pursuit has been long, challenging, and difficult. There were definitely tears of frustrations, but it has been a challenge worth going after. I am still working on the fee today and trying to find it a home, but after what has happened in the last year, I have a really good feeling, there are great people on this campus who will ensure the success of the fee.
Another college campus that has led the bicycle way forward for some time is the University of Tennessee. With a lot of hills, one is not always up for pedaling. An e-bike makes getting around on two wheels so much more doable. Even if fatigued after a long day, one might give the e-bike a go.
GAS2 covered the university’s CycleUshare e-bike program awhile back, noting that it was the first automated e-bike sharing program in the US.
Of course, bike commuting is skyrocketing, especially in “Bike Friendly Communities,” and college towns are often the best for bicycling. “In general, bike commuting has skyrocketed, doubling from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009. However, the growth has occurred to a greater degree in cities and towns that have been designated as Bicycle-Friendly Communities by the League.”
Image Credit: bikeleague.org
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