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Dr. Kat’s List: Five Colleges for Bicycling Enthusiasts

May is National Bike Month! Bicycling is a popular mode of transportation on many campuses, and colleges around the country are making bicycling accessible to students for its physical, financial, environmental, and social benefits. Whether you’re looking for a school that offers a bike to ride or one that offers scenic paths to navigate, Dr. Kat and the expert counselors at IvyWise have identified five bike-friendly schools to get the wheels turning on your college search.

Pitzer College, Claremont, CA
Founded by students at Pitzer College in 2001, the Green Bike Program gives a second life to abandoned bikes that would otherwise end up in a landfill. In addition to providing free loaner bikes for students to use, the program works in conjunction with Campus Safety to collect abandoned bikes, which are then refurbished and raffled off at no charge. The GBP also runs a bicycle repair shop, which offers access to tools and repair lessons to the entire Claremont Colleges community. Once the recycled bikes are in working order, students can partake in bike polo, take a ride with the Claremont Colleges Cycling Club, or sign up for the Amgen Tour of California, the largest cycling event in the country. Regardless of the forum, the picturesque 35-acre campus and mild southern California weather provide ideal cycling conditions.

This small, liberal arts college is a member of the Claremont Colleges, a five-college consortium in Southern California, which also includes Pomona College, Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, and Harvey Mudd College. As a result, the school’s 1,000 undergraduate students can cross-register for more than 2,000 classes and take up to half of their courses at other schools! Students looking for even more off-campus options can study abroad in locations such as Botswana, Nepal, and at Pitzer’s own Firestone Center for Restoration Ecology, a biological reserve in Costa Rica. For cultural experiences closer to campus, students can take part in the Kohoutek Music and Arts Festival, held on campus each spring, and “BobFest,” a day of reggae music and free food.

Ripon College, Ripon, WI
In 2007, Ripon College faced a problem: there were more applicants for parking permits than there were available spaces. In response, Ripon’s President David Joyce, an ardent cyclist, was inspired to propose an idea to the campus community. Instead of imposing parking restrictions or building additional lots, Joyce launched the Ripon Velorution Project. The Velorution (from the French word for bicycle, “vélo,” and the word revolution) is a global social movement that aims to fight obesity, traffic congestion, fuel consumption, pollution, and urban sprawl through this alternative form of transportation. Ripon’s incarnation enables incoming freshmen to sign a pledge that states they will not drive a car to campus for the entire year and they will perform at least 10 hours of community service. In exchange, students are given a new Cannondale F9 mountain bike, customized with the Ripon College color scheme and logo, which they can keep after graduation. Furthermore, the college has encouraged biking by making the campus friendlier for cyclists by providing secure indoor storage in residence halls. Plans to install new bike racks throughout campus are underway.

With more than 3.5 miles of trails on the 250-acre campus, students can easily ride from a Physiology of Exercise class to a meeting of EGOR (Environmental Group of Ripon) to practice for the school’s Division II varsity cycling team. This small liberal arts college located in Ripon, Wisconsin (the founding place of the Republican party) offers more than 30 majors and 70 student organizations (from the Heavy Metal Society to the Armchair Association, a philosophy club) to its 1,057 undergraduate students. Further, students can study abroad in more than 20 locations from Tanzania to Wales.

University of Arizona, Tuscon, AZ
The University of Arizona is located at the intersection of two of the most popular bicycle-commuting routes in the region, so it’s no surprise that the campus is home to many cycling enthusiasts. The southwestern scenery and fair weather provide ideal biking conditions, and the school’s Parking & Transportation Services sponsors a plethora of bike-friendly initiatives. From a free bicycle valet station to the Cat Wheels Bike Program, in which students can borrow a bike free of charge from one of five on-campus stations, the school’s 29,719 undergraduate students have plenty of reasons to go for a ride. When not biking to and from class on the school’s 387-acre campus, students can join the University of Arizona Cycling Club, which offers weekly rides, social events, physical training, maintenance classes and skills workshops, sports nutrition and sport psychology lectures, and course competitions as a member of the Southwestern Collegiate Cycling Conference. Off campus, the city of Tucson offers hundreds of miles of roads and tours (and was ranked one of the top cycling cities in the US by Bicycling magazine) and sponsors several events each year including the El Tour de Tucson and the Holualoa Triathlon.

Athletics are a major part of life at this public school – the Arizona Wildcats compete in 19 sports in the NCAA Division I Pac-12 Conference. When not breaking a sweat, students can hit the books in academic majors from Plant Sciences to Musical Theater. To supplement students’ interest in more than 300 areas of study, the campus is home to Biosphere 2, the Flandrau Science Center & Planetarium, the UA Mineral Museum, the History of Pharmacy Museum, the Center for Creative Photography, and Museum of Art. Further, with more than $600 million dollars in research funding, students have access to a wide array of research opportunities, and the university has been awarded more NASA grants for space exploration than any other university in the United States!

Indiana University – Bloomington, Bloomington, IN
Each spring, Indiana University Bloomington hosts the longest-running and largest college bike race in the US, the Little 500. More than 25,000 people (including President Barack Obama and Lance Armstrong) attend the 200-lap (50 mile) relay-style race, which raises scholarship money for the IU Student Foundation. Many members of the campus cycling community also partake in the Hilly Hundred, a two-day race sponsored by the Central Indiana Bicycling Association. Held in October, 5,000 participants cover 100-miles of varied terrain in southern Indiana. Students can practice for these competitions by joining the university’s cycling club. A member of the Midwest Collegiate Cycling Conference, the group participates in Road, Cyclocross, Mountain Biking, and Track cycling. The school further encourages biking on its nearly 2,000 acre campus by providing ample bike parking, sponsoring bi-annual bike auctions where students can get a great deal on a used bike, and offering a group called Students for Bikes at IU that works with the administration to maintain a bike-friendly environment.

When students aren’t out for a ride, this large, public university and the surrounding college town of Bloomington have plenty to offer the school’s 32,000 undergraduate students. The school offers instruction in more than 40 foreign languages, which may come in handy for students hoping to ride the Tour de France or the The Giro d’Italia someday. With more than 50 academic departments from Accounting to Woodwinds, more than 750 student organizations from the Society for Creative Anachronism to bowling, and 24 Varsity NCAA Division I teams, there’s something for every “Hoosier.” Off-campus, arts and entertainment events, such as the annual Lotus World Music & Arts Festival, take place year round, and the city is home to renowned boating, caving, and rock-climbing attractions.

Bates College, Lewiston, ME
In 2006, Bates College hired an Environmental Coordinator as part of its efforts to plan for a sustainable future. In addition to reducing water waste and electricity use, the school constructed the Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge. Converted from the remains of the historic Lewiston-Auburn Railroad Bridge, the overpass provides the campus and Lewiston community with a car-free passage over the Androscoggin River. For easy access throughout the 109-acre campus and the surrounding city of Lewiston, the school also established the Green Bike program. Students can join the program by participating in an orientation workshop at the beginning of the school year, and are then granted access to green bikes for free use on and off campus. With more than half of the student population owning a bike and many more taking advantage of the school-provided fleet, bicycling “Batesies” are in good company – in fact, even campus security patrols the campus on bikes!

The scenic town of Lewiston is a popular retreat for outdoor enthusiasts with nearby skiing, canoeing, beaches, and parks. Students at this New England school embrace the varied New England weather with fun-filled activities for all seasons. The Cycling Team, one of more than 100 clubs and organizations at this private, liberal arts college, races mountain bikes in the fall and road bikes in the spring. Another group, the Discordians, sponsors random activities from leaf-pile jumping to snowball fights. And of course, the 100-year old Winter Carnival hosted by the Bates Outing Club is a beloved tradition. Following the frigid Maine winter (and the completion of two traditional semesters), Bates offers students a unique five-week short term to focus on a single topic or off-campus project. Recently, students have studied Marine Biology on the Maine coast and Anthropological Studies in Bali.

With so much attention on healthy living and sustainability, biking has become popular at college campuses across the country. From bike shares at schools like the University of New Hampshire, to safety precautions at schools like Mount Holyoke, to facilities at schools such as the University of Minnesota and Evergreen State College, and financial incentives at schools like Stanford University, there are more reasons than ever for students to start pedaling!

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