PSU kicks off fourth-annual Bike Challenge

May is “Bike to Work” month and the wheels are already turning for Portland State’s fourth-annual Bike Challenge, which began May 1.

May is “Bike to Work” month and the wheels are already turning for Portland State’s fourth-annual Bike Challenge, which began May 1.

The challenge, which is organized by the campus Bike Hub, offers some new features to this year’s version of the campus-wide wheeled commute. Students and employees now have the option to create small teams of four to 10 riders, rather than just participate individually.

Team captains can use the bike-challenge website to motivate and support each other by sending messages and tracking a rider’s progress. In addition, the Bike Hub will be giving away several prizes to participants during the challenge and at the awards celebration. This year’s top prize is a Surly Long Haul Trucker Bike worth over $1,000.

The challenge already has 789 riders—more than double than in years past—and they are hoping to reach the 1,000-rider mark this year, according to Ian Stude, the transportation options manager for PSU.

Anyone who is a student or employee is eligible to participate in the challenge, Stude said. Once registered, either as a solo rider or team captain, individuals will use the website to log their trips during the month. The website records calories burned, as well as carbon reduction based on the mileage logged.

“Any trip to PSU that involves bicycling counts, even if you use transit part way,” Stude said. “In addition to recording their own progress, the site allows riders and teams to challenge each other by displaying the challenged rider’s stats next to their own.”

To start off the program and welcome all those bicycle commuters, the transportation department put rainproof saddle covers over all the bicycle seats on campus.

Advertising posters have also been placed around the campus, as well as e-mails and word of mouth to get people involved.

In the past, the bike challenge was implemented in order to compare PSU riders to riders at other schools. However, according to Stude, it was found to be largely ineffective in motivating people to choose bikes as their primary source of commuting.

“Part of the experiment this year with the small-team structure is to see if we can get our frequent bike riders to sign up and then invite their friends and colleagues who are less familiar with bike commuting to join them,” Stude said.

The Bike to PSU Challenge is loosely based on the citywide Bike Commute Challenge that is hosted by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

Since its challenge is held in September, when PSU is not in session, officials met to use the same code to track the progress on its website. PSU modeled the new team structure after the University of Washington’s Ride in the Rain series.

Stude commented on how important this challenge is to the element in promoting campus wide bicycling.

“PSU’s climate action plan calls for 20 percent of PSU’s commuters to arrive by bike by 2020. Currently 12 percent of students and employees commute by bike,” he said. “It’s also important to note that bicycle commuters have the lowest economic impact on the university, compared to the higher costs of providing car parking, transit subsidies and even student housing.”

The Bike Hub, along with the student group the Bicycle Advocacy Collective, will be handing out free pastries every Wednesday until the end of the month to anyone who commutes to PSU on their bike. The refreshments will be located in between Smith Memorial Student Union and Neuberger Hall.

Even though the challenge began on May 1, it is not too late to sign up, Stude said. The event ends on May 31 and the awards celebration will be held June 3.

The Bike Hub is offering a free hour-long workshop on bicycle commuting basics today at 5:30 p.m. at the Bike Hub. ?