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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Yellow Bikes for Deis

Published: October 28, 2005
Section: Opinions

Approximately fourteen years ago the Cuban government was faced with a transportation crisis: They had lost 80% of their oil supply with the collapse of the Soviet-bloc. Castro saw bicycles as the solution and promptly ordered over one million bikes from China. The program became a success overnight;

Havanas streets quickly became flooded with bikes, the health of the island improved dramatically, and Cuba escaped what could have been an economic collapse. While the situation today in America is not as dire was it was in Cuba years ago, the United States is faced with what is being called a gas crisis thanks to a heavy reliance on polluting vehicles for transportation. Brandeis should adopt about a bike program that will save the school money, improve the environment, strengthen the Brandeis community, and appease the criticisms from the student body regarding the long walk across campus.

Yellow-bike programs have been popping up in communities all over America, from small colleges such as Hampshire to large cities such as Portland, Oregon. The concept is simple: Old bikes (either donated, purchased from tag-sales, or pulled out of the trash) are fixed up and spray-painted yellow and left in bike racks all over campus. Anyone can then take a bike, use it, and deposit it at another bike rack for another student to use.

The benefits of this project would be substantial and the costs minimal. The purchase of the bikes would be inexpensive (free to $10 at a tag sale), the school would be subject to a one-time setup cost of tools and a workspace, and there would be a low recurring cost to purchase parts for repairs, which would be minimal as many items would be purchased at wholesale. However, the school would benefit from the reduction of student grumbling. Complaints surrounding the impossibility of walking across campus with only 10 minute breaks between class would be debased. Additionally, Brandeis could eliminate all or many of the campus shuttles, primarily reserving their use for the physically handicapped. Students who are unable to bring their bikes from home would no longer have to rely on the BranVan to get to Walgreens and the hike from Grad to campus would be reduced to a short bike ride.

A yellow-bike program would also help strengthen the Brandeis community. The preponderance of campus programs bikes are managed and maintained by either volunteer labor or students on work-study, providing an opportunity for students to increase their mechanical aptitude and socialize, learn, and work in a unique environment that currently cannot be found on campus. Additionally, many campus projects offer students and residents in surrounding communities the opportunity to learn basic bike maintenance at clinics.

Students are ready for alternative forms of transportation to get around campus and Waltham and it is time for the administration to finally respond to the students call for an expanded transportation program at Brandeis. While using bikes as a mode of transportation is not a current norm among Brandeis students, there is no reason for this to be a permanent trend. With the increasing concern regarding the environment and the continued debate surrounding the (lack of) transportation options, it would be in the Universitys best interest to initiate a bicycle program on campus.