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Like Riding a Bike

News & Features | April 4, 2011

With  Green line expansion in the works, students at Tufts University have discussed the convenience of another T line close to school. Underestimated by most students, biking is much more readily available than the T, and with the recent growth of Tufts Bikes to create a bike share, Jumbos now have an advantage to other Boston students looking to travel on a dime.

Two months after the group’s creation in September 2010, its members submitted a proposal for a cut of the Tufts Community Union (TCU)’s $200,000 surplus from the previous academic year. The proposal received overwhelming support from a campus-wide poll, which led to Senate’s nearly unanimous approval of a $50,000 grant for the project.

“Not only did they have a coherent plan, they surveyed students on their own,” said TCU Associate Treasurer Matt Schuman, a senior. “They really took the initiative.”

In February, the bicycles ordered from Kona World Bikes arrived on campus and were built by the group’s members. A couple weeks later, the bike shop was opened in the basement of Lewis Hall as an addition to the Crafts Center. And last Friday, the group unveiled its bike share program with a campus-wide event.

At the kick-off event, the three aspects of Tufts Bikes (the bike share, the bike shop, and bike events) were celebrated and the group got closer to their overarching goal of creating a bike culture on campus.

“If someone’s trying to get some place, they walk or take the bus or the T. We want people to add ‘bike’ to that list as a viable alternative,” said freshman Neil Aronson, the vice president of Tufts Bikes.

Biking already appears to be a viable alternative for many. Nationwide trends have shown an increase of bike commuters and Boston is following suite. MassBikes and Bikes Not Bombs, two local organizations, and Urban AdvenTours, a bike shop and business, are only several examples of the growth of bike culture in Massachusetts. Possible motives for this growth range from the increase of gas prices to the addition of bike lanes in more urban areas. Following the need for a practical mode of transportation, Tufts Bikes have now joined groups spreading the growth of bike culture around Boston.
This charge has given the group the opportunity to choose its main ideas to propagate to the campus. Although a popular view of biking involves environmentalism, founding member Daniel Heller, a senior, was quick to affirm his view on the matter.

“I don’t think  [of] bicycling as an environmental issue,” he said. “If you view it as an environmental issue, it stigmatizes is in the eyes of people who don’t want to see themselves as doing something environmental. Ride a bicycle because it’s a better way to get around, not because you’re saving the world.”

Other members of the group see both sides of the argument.

“I think any form of transportation is an environmental issue,” qualified Aronson. “Transportation is a huge part of our environmental situation. While I don’t think [environmentalism] should be a central part [of Tufts Bikes], I think it should be one of the many reasons that make Tufts Bikes a compelling program to have.”

In addition to providing different motives for biking, Tufts Bikes hopes to provide an outlet for future learning and experimentation. Classes will be offered to both novice and veteran bikers and taught by trained students.

“This is going to be a great asset for Tufts in terms of attracting potential,” Aronson said. “We’re starting with 30 bikes, but I want to see where this will go.”