Free personalized bikes for university freshmen

Here’s a pretty significant sign of the times – both the University of New England and Ripon College in Wisconsin are giving every single one of its freshmen a free personalized bike. They’re not cheap clunkers either, the bicycles provided at the University of New England retail for $480. Turns out cheap bikes aren’t well taken care of.

Sure, the argument is that students are paying for it somehow, but the universities are benefitting financially by avoiding the construction of costly parking garages (they really are a budget crippling expense since they have no inherent educational return on investment) as well as providing the social benefit of a more humanized walking, biking culture and physical fitness as well – as one student put it, “Maybe instead of gaining the freshman 15 I’ll lose it.”

One motivation for the personalized bikes is that on-campus bike sharing programs often resulted in theft and vandalism, so perhaps ownership would provide better security. It’s also a great program for alumni donors to contribute toward, to help sponsor bikes for everyone.

Has it made a difference? 75% of Ripon College freshmen brought cars with them last year. Only 25% did this year. Now that’s making an impact.

Read more about this and university bike sharing programs in the NY Times article, With Free Bikes, Challenging Car Culture on Campus.