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Mar 092009

By Laura Elizabeth May
Green Right Now

College campuses are making tracks toward minimizing their carbon footprint by maximizing the use of bikes.

Stanford University leads the pack with a vast array of bicycling resources. Students have always used their bikes on campus, ever since the founding in 1891.

Over time the Penny-farthing, high wheeler-type of bicycles have given way to folding and mountain bikes. Even Vanessa Hudgens as Gabriella, in High School Musical 3 can be seen riding her bike around Stanford’s campus.

Students at Stanford have no excuse to leave their bikes at home. The campus currently has room for over 12,000 bikes on bike racks in campus and also offers valet bike parking for special events such as the Cardinals home football games.

Graduate student Paul Rack commutes to campus “rain or shine.” Rack began biking at 13 with his family, and now uses his passion to make a difference. Because he rode to school, Rack did not move his car from May to November except for street sweeping. Biking on campus provides the “fastest way to get around from point A to point B,” he says.

“If bicycle parking is an indicator of current bike riders-our bike racks are completely filled in the center of campus and our Main Quad, where most students attend classes. All of our bike lockers are rented-we have a waiting list,” said Brodie Hamilton, director of Parking and Transportation Services at Stanford.

At Stanford, students even get paid for riding their bikes to school through membership in the Commute Club. The  Club, founded in 2002 with a goal of increasing the use of alternative transportation, reducing  traffic congestion and improving air quality, offers members up to $282 dollars a year in “Clean Air Cash” or “Carpool Credit” if they do not purchase a long-term parking permit.

Stanford has thought of everything a biker might need. They offer an Emergency Ride Home program for off-campus commuters and freshman that might have an unforeseen emergency and need to get home fast.

In addition to biking, Zipcar, a car-sharing service, also is available at the Bay Area university. With the option of a rentable car, biking students always have access to cars if they find themselves in a pinch.

Since biking is a smart alternative and Stanford wants to protect the brains (literally) they educate, discounted bike helmets are available and every quarter one student will be awarded $1,000 dollars for being spotted wearing a helmet.

Stanford’s biking program is so fully realized, in fact, that the League of American Bicyclists gave the university a Gold Level “Bicycle Friendly Community” award, which acknowledges communities for providing excellent education, engineering, evaluation and enforcement related to biking, and encouragement of the biking culture.