Pedal Power


Above, a student talks to a reporter on campus about MCLA's new Bike Share Program.

MCLA students are more visible than ever throughout the northern Berkshire community as they travel from town to town via a mode of transportation that's healthier not only for them, but the environment, thanks to the new Bike Share Program on campus.

A great example of how student initiative and perseverance resulted in an outcome that's enhanced the quality of life for many, the Bike Share program makes checking out a bicycle as easy as going to the library. Students use the bikes for a multitude of purposes, including as a way to get to jobs and volunteer work, and even just for fun.

"I see students on the bike trail on the way down to the mall in Lanesborough," said Spencer Moser, coordinator at MCLA's Center for Service. "They're at Williams College. There's a big crate on the back, so they use the bikes to run errands and do shopping. Students use them to get to their internships and their service learning assignments and programs."

The initiative got its genesis about six years ago, as part of an action plan out of Moser's office, for the College's Strategic Plan.

"I was sending all of these students out into the community for a variety of reasons and a lot of them are transported by the MCLA van," Moser explained. "Sometimes it's just one, two or three people in the van. I have to pay the van driver and the College absorbs the cost of the van - the gas and the upkeep. I thought, 'What if we had bikes?'"

Moser began to tackle a number of liability and legal issues that needed to be solved before the program could be instituted. Then, a couple years later, unbeknownst to him, a group of environmentally minded students decided to research the bike-friendly nature of the campus. 

After noticing a table set up by these students at the Campus Center Marketplace, to elicit student response on the matter, Moser approached them, and they soon joined forces.

According to Moser, the student involvement was critical to making the program happen.

It started with seven brand-new bikes - many of which were sponsored by different departments on campus which donated the necessary funding. Stored at the Freel Library, the bikes may be checked out like any other library resource. Helmets, too, are available if needed.

"The most common feedback from students besides, 'This is awesome, this is great,' is 'We need more bikes.'" Moser said. In response to other feedback, program leaders made the bike seats adjustable to various heights to accommodate different students.

The new program was enthusiastically received, and an eighth bike was added.

"Now that the word is everywhere on campus, I'm sure the demand for the bikes will be greater. The good news is that people are extremely excited and interested and they're using the bikes," Moser said.

The Center for Service welcomes donations so that the bike fleet may be increased.

"We deliberately purchased a particular bike that's very stable and not full of fancy parts. But, if someone wanted to donate a new bike, we would take it. We're not equipped yet to deal with used bikes that need to be fixed," Moser said.

Any individual, group, organization or business that wishes to donate a new bike or funding (about $400) to purchase another bike like those being used may contact Moser, 413-662-5152.

"How cool is it that, at MCLA, we can do this?" he said. "We work closely with the students to really create fantastic programming, and the Bike Share Program is a great example of that."