October 27th, 2010

Helping universities achieve carbon neutrality

Did you know only 1% of the population regularly commutes via bicycle, while 100% of the bicycle racing fraternity regularly makes trips by such means?(1)  In other words, people who race bikes, are 100 times more likely to be cycling commuters.

The most effective thing any large organisation—a university, for instance—can do to encourage its members to cycle to work, would be to steer those who are sports minded into bike racing. They could do that by subsidizing riders' costs, or, better still, by making campus roads available for races on weekends, when not many cars are around. There are cycling clubs in every city desperate for closed or controlled roads, who would be only too pleased to organize races, complete with marshaling and traffic control, and who would bring peloton loads of experienced riders to guarantee numbers.

                  Kermesse                                                                                Hotdog                                                            Criterium

Should The University of Newcastle join forces, lets say, with The Hunter Districts Cycling Club, to promote cycling among its students and staff in this way, dozens would be converted to racing, and even more to regular cycle commuting. Looking around the campus I can see a world class Kermesse going to waste, a hilly Hotdog course, and at least one very technical Criterium circuit, all with great spots for spectators to stand by and cheer.

Given we are heading into a unique period in history, when cycling is set to grow exponentially, as it has in Copenhagen and Portland for instance, the impact of weekly on-campus races would be measured in tonnes of CO2, millions of saved health care expenses, and years of increased productivity. 

1. All figures plucked out of thin air.