As days get shorter and the weather gets gloomier, Western students may be inclined to drive to campus, rather than using more sustainable means of transportation.
The Ride in the Rain Challenge, put on by Washington Bikes, is meant to get people out of their cars and back on their bikes despite the poor weather.
Jillian Trinkaus, the sustainable transportation program assistant at Western, has been involved in the planning of the challenge on campus.
“November is traditionally the rainiest month of the year, so this is an event to keep people from putting their bikes away as the weather gets wetter, colder and darker,” Trinkaus said. “The intent, in my view, is to keep people riding their bikes instead of driving their cars.”
The challenge is open to students, staff and faculty, and participants can choose to ride individually or in teams of four to 10 people. Each bike ride needs to be more than a quarter of a mile, and the challenge is to have eight such rides through the month of November.
“If we are afraid of doing things in the rain around here we’ll never get to do anything.”
This is the first year Western has participated in the challenge, and has 87 participants on 14 teams so far.
“People can still sign up even though the challenge started,” Trinkaus said. “They can sign up the whole month of November.”
Gary Malick, Western’s classroom services manager, has been a bike commuter for 15 years, and decided to participate in the challenge after seeing a poster for it and hearing about it from friends.
“If you look at Western as a whole, it’s one of the top employers as far as quantity of people working there, so if we can get a good portion of our workforce that includes students using alternative transportation, I think it will make a big impact on the county,” Malick said.
Trinkaus said one of the main benefits of the challenge is it minimizes the use of single-occupancy vehicles in getting to campus.
“It promotes a camaraderie amongst people across campus,” Trinkaus said. “It’s a fun thing for people to do to get closer to the people that they work and/or study with.”
Stacey Maxwell, the program coordinator for the chemistry department, is a participant and team captain in the challenge. After trying to decide whether or not she would continue biking to work in the fall, the challenge seemed like a sign that she should continue.
“I think we have a lot of opportunity to do things out in the rain,” Maxwell said. “If we are afraid of doing things in the rain around here we’ll never get to do anything.”
Maxwell has biked a total of 16.4 miles so far, and Malick has biked a total of 36 miles.
Trinkaus said she already considers the challenge to be a successful one.
“It’s been really fun to watch and get to know the biking community on campus,” Trinkaus said.
While the challenge is important, it is also important to be safe, Malick said.
“Safety is a big thing, making sure everybody’s got adequate lights and reflective vests, and I will say, I won’t push it,” Malick said. “ If the winds are above 40 miles-per-hour or something, I’ll take the bus”
In the first three days of the challenge, the Western teams have biked a total of 228 trips with 617.1 miles under their belt, Trinkaus said. With the challenge, 543 pounds of carbon dioxide emission have been avoided, and a total of 30,238 calories have been burned so far.