How many times have you craved a latte from Manndible, but resisted because the painfully long walk from Goldwin Smith? Or how many times have you been tempted to watch the Cornell Red take on their competitors but decided not to because of the annoying trek to Lynah rink? Well, one of Cornell’s newest student organizations doesn’t think you should be missing out on delicious coffee or hockey games any longer. The Big Red Bikes bike share program aims not only to connect students throughout Cornell’s large campus, but also to promote a more sustainable mode of transportation and create a more environmentally friendly mentality.
On Mon., Nov. 2, Big Red Bikes made its final presentation to the Student Assembly's Finance Committee, requesting a $1.00 allocation of the By-Line funding (Student Activity Fee), and was approved to receive funding for two academic years starting in Fall 2010. Big Red Bikes is a unique bike share system designed to promote a mentality of campus sustainability through Cornell.
“On campus, we don’t think it will make that much of an [environmental] difference, but the main thing is, it will be creating a sort of mentality that promotes using not necessarily a bike share but more sustainable types of transportation,” president Pat Farnach ’10, who is also a Sun photographer, said.
Big Red Bikes is mainly concerned with sustainability in terms of decreasing fossil fuel consumption. “Our program argues that in terms of riding a bike vs. driving a car, it won’t reduce the fossil fuel consumption, but we believe it will happen in other ways. For instance, if your parents raised you, bugging you to turn off the lights when you leave a room, it gets to you, and you’re more likely to do it on your own,” vice president Noah Zallen said. Zallen said he believes that the bike share program will function in a similar manner. If people attend Cornell, encounter a bike share program that is affordable and enjoyable and participate in it, it will have an effect in the future. “You’re going to be more receptive to subways and other programs and basically you’re less likely to drive a hummer on the beach. It’ll have its effects in creating a sustainable community,” Zallen said.
Similarly, Zallen and Farnach believe that the program will have many other benefits in addition to sustainability. “Aside from sustainability there are also a lot of other benefits, like exercise. That could also create a different mentality, one that promotes physical activities,” Farnach said.
While Farnach and Zallen have both said that they have encountered similar programs throughout universities while conducting their research, their program is quite unlike the others. “Part of our research and proposal writing was looking at other programs and through that we found that for the most part, because of Cornell’s campus and our budget restrictions we couldn’t model our program off of other systems. That’s not to say we don’t have similarities with other systems, but we really built ours from the ground up based on what Cornell had to offer,” Farnach said.
Zallen also explained that they have mainly come across two types of programs — one for cities and one for university campuses. The two are very different because in cities they are mainly pay per use, meaning a payment is made when a bike is rented out. At universities, however, programs range from ones at Hampshire College and the University of Wisconsin where the programs are not institutionalized (see a bike, take a bike), to those at Emory or University of California San Diego where you pay to use the service. “What surprised us was in none of those cases was it a student service where it was for everyone.” At Cornell however, one dollar will be taken out of each students’ activity fee, making the program truly for everyone. Even those who cannot ride a bike will be able to benefit, because lessons will be offered by the organization.
Ultimately, the founders of Big Red Bikes are extremely proud of what they’ve accomplished. “In terms of what the program stands for, we like to think of it as more of a voice of the students to the administration, because the administration has been inactive when it comes to sustainability issues. That’s not completely true, but they haven’t been doing as much as the students, and that’s for sure. So hopefully this will kick someone into more changes,” Farnach said.
“This is also a symbol of student achievement, not just student effort. There is no program within any university or any city in the world for a bike share that is so institutionalized as a service. It’s the first bike share of its kind that is so affordable and convenient, so Cornell should be proud of that,” Zallen added.