Five hundred discounted Nice Ride passes will be distributed to St. Thomas students and faculty as part of a $20,000 grant given by St. Thomas’ campus sustainability fund starting Monday.
Geography professor Paul Lorah is working on the project with his conservation geography class and said that the idea began as an effort to continue the university’s pledge under the Rev. Dennis Dease to be carbon neutral by 2035.
“The whole grant came out of discussions with students and this idea that we could use bikes instead of cars to help with sustainability,” Lorah said.
Students in Lorah’s conservation geography class researched and wrote the grant. Lorah set up a class “Wiki,” which is a community-developed website allowing any user to add and edit content, that was eventually sent in to get approved.
“The point of the project is basically to get St. Thomas students and faculty and incoming freshmen out of their cars and onto the Nice Ride bikes to take down carbon emissions,” junior Mitch Schaps said. “Also, it gives them better exercise because of the actual use of the bikes.”
Nice Ride passes were handed out to students at the discounted rates April 23 during convocation hour. The passes are usually $55 for students and $65 for non-students, but are marked down to $10 as a result of the grant. Lorah said the Nice Ride passes will be available at their discounted rates at Tommie Central starting April 29.
Freshman Marissa Alliegro said the bikes may be a good benefit for freshman because a lot of them don’t have cars but she doesn’t anticipate a noticeable interest.
“Don’t get me wrong I think the idea behind the bikes is really cool and would benefit the environment but I honestly can’t see myself actually taking advantage of them enough for it to be worth it for me,” Alliegro said.
Lorah said the grant is going to help build community by getting students more connected to the neighborhoods. Freshman Jack Mayer said that the system is a great way for the university to strengthen community while being sustainable.
“It’s kind of nice to see how people can come together and work for a cause that’s helping the nation overall and especially the Twin Cities area,” Mayer said.
The money for the grant will fund one year’s worth of Nice Ride Passes. Lorah said if the project is a success, it is something he would like to continue.
“If we get lots of students riding lots of miles, then we’ll definitely try it again,” Lorah said.
The students in conservation geography will download the bike use data and analyze it for carbon savings in the university’s geographic information systems lab. The students will analyze the amount of miles ridden on the bikes and estimate the carbon savings based on the data.
“There’s a lot of reasons why I think this is a cool project,” Lorah said. “It’s part of campus sustainability, it gets students actively involved in solving campus sustainability issues and it links to research.”
Junior Andrew Henke, a student in Lorah’s conservation geography class, said the grant will benefit the university.
“It (the Nice Ride program at St. Thomas) provides an option of transportation that helps the well being of the community, environment and St. Thomas,” Henke said, “but also the student’s physical and mental well being too.”
Zach Zumbusch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.