Bringing biking back

You are walking down the sidewalk on a neighborhood street near the local elementary school.  It is a sunny day, a little humid but not too hot.  Children are playing in the lawns and in the driveways, acting out scenes from their favorite cartoon show.  A few kids are riding their big wheels and BMX bikes off a homemade ramp in the yard.  At that age it seems like all of us had a bike.  After riding off the ramp at full speed the children throw their bicycle into the lawn without hesitation. 

As adults we try to take care of the things we value most.  Some people value their bikes, and others the environment, and some a checking account full of cash or maybe their SUV in the garage. Whatever you value is also valued by some and not by others.

With a population of more than 14,500 students, Minnesota State is a large public university.  Many students live on or close to campus, while some travel in from out of town.  Mankato offers public transportation as well as bike lanes, while MSU offers accommodations on campus for motorists and cyclists.  With all of the transportation alternatives available to students it’s a wonder why so many of them still drive.  MSU students should take advantage of the alternative transportation options such as biking, riding the bus, or walking to help reduce their carbon footprints.

It is easy to see why many students at MSU drive a vehicle to campus. 

The school offers 5,400 parking spots every semester for students to utilize, according to the MSU website.  These parking spots range from the gold pass to the orange pass.  The gold pass grants the closest parking to campus for $236 per semester, while the free lot is free parking the furthest from campus.  Students who are unable to find a parking space in the free lot have the opportunity to park in the campus pay lot or risk a ticket parking in another “permit only” lot.  If a student has a parking pass in a lot further from campus, they must walk the rest of the way, pay to ride the bus, or use their bus pass given to them with their parking pass. 

Why are students driving to the parking lot to take the bus to campus?  Could local students utilize the bus and skip driving altogether?

The bus routes in Mankato service the heaviest-traveled areas of the city.  During the week the buses have three routes to campus. Each route is run twice an hour, according to the city of Mankato transit web page. 

Students can purchase a bus pass from the cashiers office or on the MSU web site for a reduced cost of $40 per semester.  This is much cheaper than a parking pass and keeps students from dumping money into the gas tank.  In the winter months the buses are still on time and don’t have trouble starting like cars.  Each bus route to campus stops in front of the student union, which makes getting to lecture quick and easy.  Students even have enough time to grab a light breakfast at campus dining or a morning coffee at Jazzman’s. 

The bus is a great substitute to driving a personal vehicle and lowers pollution while investing in the community transit system.

For those who are penny pinchers, it is easy to park your vehicle and walk everywhere for the rest of the year.  Those who come to college without a vehicle may find life is less stressful.  The 2006 Mankato census weighs Mankato in at a reasonable 15.4 square miles, meaning riding a bike anywhere won’t take long at all, though on the really hot or really cold days students may need to leave a little early to allow for delays. 

MSU’s campus is generous, having 37 locations with a total of 96 bike racks which hold 1063 bikes, according to the bicycle section of university policy at MSU.  These racks take up little space and are positioned close to campus buildings.  Bikers have the ability to ride on campus and park close to where they need to be.  MSU advocates for the use of bicycles as a way to help “reduce the levels of harmful air-borne emissions” caused by motor transportation.  A bike can easily get a person where they need to be quickly.  Weather can impact a ride but, if you are prepared with the appropriate accessories, rain and snow are no problem. 

John Dahmen is a Reporter staff photographer

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