A tiny liberal arts college here hopes it has found an answer to a nagging shortage of campus parking: a bicycle giveaway.
If incoming freshmen promise not to bring a car to campus for a full year, Ripon College will give them a Trek 820 mountain bike, a helmet and a lock a $400 value.
“We’re a residential college with a beautiful, historic campus in the middle of a small town,” said President David Joyce, an avid cyclist. “Paving it over was not an option I was willing to consider.”
He hopes the 1,000-student campus’ “Velorution Program” will protect it from building more parking lots.
“We obviously live in a car culture. That’s not about to change,” Joyce said. “But if a significant number of students learn that a car isn’t a necessity at this stage of their lives, that’s good enough for me.”
Last fall, for the first time in Ripon College history, the number of parking permit applications exceeded the 400 permits available, Joyce said. The city approved a measure to close overnight street parking on every street through and adjacent to the campus.
The college, founded in 1851 and located about 70 miles northwest of Milwaukee, teamed with Fond du Lac/Oshkosh Cyclery, Trek and other companies to start the bicycle program.
Friends, trustees and alumni donated about $60,000 to buy 200 bicycles to give away to an expected 300 incoming freshmen, said Cody Pinkston, a spokesman for the school.
Historically, about 100 freshman arrive without cars, so accepting the bike will be a “no-brainer” for them, he said.
“There is not a strong bicycle culture here with students. That is what we are trying to engender.”
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