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Culture shock — on wheels!

Western Washington University’s Anthropology Department teeters between first and second within their pool of bikers in this year’s Bike Everywhere Challenge

Two people ride bikes down a winding path. Western Washington University’s anthropology department currently holds the first position within its pool in the Bike Everywhere Challenge. // Illustration by Emma Christensen

Students, staff and friends of the Western Washington University Anthropology Department have been documenting their bike rides throughout May as part of the Bike Everywhere Challenge, a national event that occurs annually. Teams are placed in randomly selected pools of 10, within which winners are calculated based on the number of points collected by riders.

The team rides under the name Culture Shocks, a play on words with the term ‘culture shock’ as well as the fact that bikes also have shocks. The Culture Shocks are one of five teams riding for the university.

The challenge, put on by Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes, encourages people to choose biking over other forms of transportation. Various prizes are awarded along the way, including a bike worth up to $1,500, based on the number of miles traveled and points earned by each team.

“Biking is a great way to get around and you’re not relying on transportation that puts you in traffic or uses fossil fuels,” said Lauren Townshend, administrative services manager for the anthropology department. Townshend serves as the team captain for the Culture Shocks, and has done so since she first helped to start the team in 2017.

According to Townshend, the team normally lands around the sixth or seventh position, but this year, with each team member putting in more miles, Townshend believes it’s very possible for the Culture Shocks to come out of the challenge on top.

“This is pretty unusual for us since we’re such a small department,” she said. “But I think anything is possible now.”

Townshend was first introduced to the challenge by Jillian Trinkaus, Western’s commute options and transportation planning manager. 

“I work every day to help people at Western drive cars less,” Trinkaus said. “Driving less is the most impactful thing that individuals can do to decrease their negative impact on the environment.”

Trinkaus’s main mode of transportation is her bicycle. Her favorite rides around Bellingham are from Zuanich Point Park to Boulevard Park, as well as around Lake Samish, most of which can be done on paths away from cars.

Besides helping to reduce your carbon footprint, biking also serves as a great form of exercise. Anthropology students and professors alike are enjoying the challenge of fitting in a ride as often as they can, by either substituting their bike for a car or bus ride or simply getting out to enjoy a sunny day.

Will Kettle, a bike and ski technician at Western’s Outdoor Center, said biking is one of the best ways you can get to know an area. 

“You get to explore places that might not usually be accessible and you can find some of the most amazing spots,” he said. 

Kettle said he enjoys interacting with and teaching students about bike maintenance.

The Bike Everywhere Challenge lasts until the end of the month, so there is still time for students to either start their own team or join an existing one and log their rides to get points. This year, anyone on a Western team who records at least three rides will be entered into the prize drawing.

Those interested can sign up at LoveToRide.net.


Hanna Rhody

Hanna Rhody (she/her) is a campus life reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a second year majoring in environmental journalism. In her free time Hanna enjoys all things music and all things cheese. 

You can find her on Instagram at @hannatheginger. 


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