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Kate Marlow/the Gauntlet

Challenging commuters to be responsible

Riding the proletariat chariot, cycling and car pooling for Mother Earth

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The University of Calgary wants students to break out their spandex and bicycles to save the world. From June 1 to 15, students and staff are encouraged to bike, take transit, walk or even carpool. Participants can enter their mode of transportation online for two free public transit tickets and an opportunity to win prizes in a draw. The cross-national Commuter Challenge pits workplaces against each other to encourage employees to use sustainable transportation methods. Here at the U of C it is a collaborative project between the Office of Sustainability, external relations, Healthy U of C, Parking Services and the Students' Union.

The challenge kicks off June 1st with a celebration on Swann Mall-- the prairie chicken hill-- with a BBQ and a bicycle repair workshop. OS coordinator Jo Wright explained the campaign would make students more aware of environmentally friendly transportation methods.

"Calgary actually steps up when it comes to the Commuter Challenge. We were last year's national winning city," said Wright. "Very surprising for such a 'car city.'"

U of C research communications manager Grady Semmens shared Wright's excitement, explaining the Commuter Challenge fits perfectly with the university's other sustainability plans.

"There are a number of other plans to make the campus more accessible by bicycle, like Bike Root," said Semmens. "We [also] have a car-sharing program and designated 'top of the lot' parking stalls reserved for those who carpool."

Semmens said the university's participation has resulted in a reduction of 45,278 kilometres driven in one week by 521 participants. This year, the goal is to get an additional 1,000 people involved.

"Last year, [the] U of C had the third highest number of participants in the city, behind Shell Canada and ConcoPhilips Canada," said Semmens.

One group hoping to encourage increased cycling is the Bike Root Community Bike Shop, a campus co-op. Event Organizer John Brown explained the Bike Root is holding a workshop for people who want to learn more about good commuter practices, like which routes to use and how to equip one's bike. He also explained the Bike Root's plan to promote cycling through its lending library, located in the MacKimmie Library Tower. Currently, 20 bikes are available to use.

"The purpose of the lending library is to make cycling accessible and affordable for people on campus and surrounding communities," said Brown. "A goal for this year's Commuter Challenge is to get first time commuters using our lending library, making it easy for new commuters who want to start bicycling."

Correction(s)

The Bike Root is a member of the Commuter Challenge team, the event runs from June 1–5, a "Trail Mix Buffet," not a BBQ, will be held at the celebration June 1 and the Bike Root member quoted in the story was Jordan Brown. The Gauntlet apologizes for any inconvenience.

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