Thursday, August 29, 2013

A people powered move to the U of I campus, courtesy of Champaign County Bikes

A people powered move to the U of I campus, courtesy of Champaign County Bikes

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A few weeks back my daughter, Jane, who began school as a U of I student this week, was contemplating her move into Allen Hall on campus. I half-jokingly suggested going by bike, since that’s how she’s used to getting around town.

“Could you really do that?” she wondered. “Sure,” I said, not really sure at all. “Check in with somebody at Champaign County Bikes—they love that sort of thing.”

So the next morning when she came upon the table set up by the group at the Market at the Square in Urbana, she asked. As it turns out, they really did love the idea.

On the chance you’re not familiar with Champaign County Bikes (CCB), it’s a group that was founded in 2006 by people who wanted to improve the bicycle friendliness of Champaign County. They go about this by calling attention to the rights of cyclists as roadway users, promoting education about cycling, and supporting legislation and infrastructure improvements that benefit cycling.

On several past occasions, members of Champaign County Bikes have combined their pedaling power—and bicycle cargo trailers—to move people from one house or apartment to another. But moving Jane from our home in Champaign the three miles to Allen Hall would be their first time helping a student move into a University residence hall.

Rick Langlois, co-founder and current vice presid
ent put out the word to a small subset of the organization’s list, because he was certain we would easily assemble more moving capacity than a single first-year student would need, and he was right.

Helping out on the morning of the move we had six volunteers in addition to three family members and we towed a total of nine cargo trailers—probably two to three times what we really needed.

[Photo by Robert Baird. Jane talks with James Roedl, Campus Bike Shop manager as they wait to for others to get ready to roll.]

That was okay, though, since part of the point of this exercise was to demonstrate how much utility you can add to a bike by setting it up with a cargo trailer. For my daughter’s move we used a whole range of them, including a homemade trailer crafted from a jogging stroller, a super-utilitarian, painted-gray steel model, a few lighter, more nicely engineered one, and a super deluxe flat-bed trailer from the Campus Bike Shop.

More importantly, though, moving our daughter to campus by bike enabled us to turn what could have been an unpleasant chore into a delightful social event. The loading was easy. The three-mile morning ride from home to dorm was perfect. And when we arrived at our destination, a loud cheer went up as the student guides realized what we were up to.

Sarah Hoyle-Katz, a member of CCB’s leadership and a U of I graduate student who participated in the move, called attention to the independence that bicycling offers a young person. “Using bicycles for the move is a reminder to students that you don’t need a car to get around town.”

I didn’t think to ask my daughter for a final comment for this story—there was too much else to say (and not say) as we hugged her and made our exit so she could settle in. I’m glad we’ll be able to look back on her move and envision her pedaling into the future.