School’s out for summer, but the students and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison certainly aren’t slacking when it comes to cycling. To the contrary: The Badgers are nipping at the heels of major corporations, like Ingersoll Rand and Kimberly-Clark, in the National Bike Challenge.
More than 9,000 workplaces have signed up for the Challenge thus far, ranging from a small outfit that manufacturers outdoor umbrellas in Illinois to massive companies stretching from coast to coast, like Walmart and AT&T. But it’s not just money-making businesses that are cashing in on the many benefits of the challenge. Plenty of nonprofits and universities are participating, as well.
Ranked #8 among all workplaces and #1 among colleges, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is certainly showing its stripes as a Silver-level Bicycle Friendly University. To get a little insight on the leading college team, I got in touch with one of the Badgers’ top riders: Zachary Schuster, a very witty master’s student in Water Resources Engineering and Management.
How did you hear about the Challenge- through the university?
My advisor told me that if I didn’t join, he would conveniently “lose” my dissertation. Actually, I have a friend who works on smart transportation policy, and he asked me to join his team. Since I’m a nice guy, I said yes.
Is cycling a prominent part of campus culture at UW-Madison?
The city of Madison is rather pro-bike, so yes. I think it comes in a close third behind Badger football and studying really hard. One of the myths of Madison is that they plow the bike paths before they plow the streets. Not entirely sure if it’s true, but it serves its purpose.
With an impressive 122 riders from UWM, how is the university promoting the Challenge?
I wish I could get extra credit or something, that would be pretty awesome. We can pretend, right? I think it’s mostly through social networking and departments with bike challenge entrepreneurs.
How has participating in the Challenge improved or increased your riding?
Oh man, I love getting points for riding my bike. It’s amazing how motivational it is to get points for ditching the car and riding instead. Unfortunately, with this biblical heat wave, riding in the car with the AC has become an increasingly appealing alternative. I blame Al Gore. Especially for my loss of bike challenge points.
Do you know the other folks riding for UWM; has the Challenge allowed you build a sense of solidarity with riders you already know/see on campus?
I know a few. One of them is going to be the Principle Investigators on my Ph.D. dissertation. I probably shouldn’t talk too much trash though, lest I want to graduate this decade. We do have a friendly competition against one of the other teams on campus. We are currently crushing them. Boom!
Any friendly rivalries in the Challenge; other universities you folks want to beat?
Universities I want to beat? Michigan? Ohio State? Michigan State? Iowa? Minnesota? If it doesn’t work out, football season will be here soon enough…
Carolyn SzczepanskiCarolyn joined the League in March 2012, after two years at the Alliance for Biking & Walking. In addition to managing the League's blog, magazine and other communications, Carolyn organized the first National Women's Bicycling Summit and launched the League's newest program: Women Bike. Before she crossed over to advocacy, she was a professional journalist for nearly 10 years.