The Weekly Planet – Toughening up to Transit

Tara Meyer

We all know the routine: One morning you wake up and peek out your window to be greeted by several inches of newly fallen snow. You bundle up with layer upon layer of polypro, cashmere or wool, covering as much of yourself as possible to avoid the burning sensation that will meet any exposed skin the second you step outside. You grab a cereal bar or a banana as you jet for the door, but alas, the Colgate Cruiser zooms past and the warmth in your body fades with the smell of Diesel burning in the freezing air.

Many of us know that public transit can be a great thing when it works, offsetting major CO2 emissions caused by cars as well as reducing traffic and even instigating some exercise. We also know that other forms of travel, such as biking or walking, are excellent substitutes for driving in locations where the climate isn’t limiting; unfortunately, here at Colgate we find ourselves buried in snow for at least two-thirds of the year, and many of us tend to avoid the Colgate Cruiser due to its inefficiency and regular tardiness.

Although the system is not perfect, I believe that many improvements have been made to the Cruiser schedule over the past few years. For me, the hardest part is setting aside the extra few minutes to get to the Cruiser stop on time. In the end I have to ask myself, which is worse: Waiting an extra four minutes outside in the cold, or having to walk all the way up the Persson steps in the soul-piercing wind?

So how can we, as members of the Colgate community, take on the super-task of reducing our carbon emissions in a small town where driving seems a necessity? Students, staff and faculty members asked themselves a similar question 18 months ago at the 2005 fall Green Summit. As a result, Green Bikes was born, a campus co-op designed to encourage “the Colgate and Hamilton community [to use] inexpensive, convenient, human-powered transportation [and] decrease reliance on automobiles,” according to the website.

In lieu of recent increasing concern for reducing global carbon emissions, community bike programs have grown and found success all over the country. Co-ops have been founded at universities such as Middlebury and Macalester, and in communities like Denver, Colorado to Austin, Texas. These co-ops have provided excellent models for our own program development. Since its establishment, the Colgate Green Bikes program has received many donated bicycles from community members including students and campus safety’s ever-growing stash of abandoned bikes. This spring Green Bikes organizers are planning to get the program up and pedaling. Students or staff interested in joining or for more information can check out the Green Bikes website at http://groups.colgate.edu/greenbikes/.

We all make daily decisions regarding our energy consumption and driving habits. And although it can be inconvenient, frustrating and even painful, I encourage each of you to give these green transportation options another chance. Set up a carpool with your house and your neighbors. Wake up five minutes earlier so that you can catch the Cruiser. Bundle up, suck it up and walk. Colgate students are tough; it is time we take a tougher approach in helping preserve our planet.