Earlier this month the League of American Bicyclists announced six new Bicycle Friendly Universities (BFU) at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) conference in Pittsburgh, Pa. Southwestern University only made the League’s honorable mention, but hope their ‘Pirate Bikes’ program sway the league next year.
The new BFUs for 2011 include: Chatham University, George Mason University, Ohio State University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, University of North Carolina Wilmington, and University of Vermont; while 2011 Fall Bicycle Friendly Universities Honorable Mentions included California State University, Fullerton, University of California, Berkeley and University of Georgia, in addition to Southwestern University. “We are pleased to see that so many of our great higher education institutions - large and small - are stepping up to meet the challenges of sustainability, safety and health, and they are doing so with the help of the Bicycle Friendly Universities program,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League in a prepared statement. ‘College campuses across the country are offering students and faculty a higher quality of life as a result.”
Southwestern University’s free campus bikes have nothing to do with plunder on the high-seas or counterfeited products, rather, the bikes have been called ‘Pirate Bikes’ because of the school mascot—the Pirates. “The bikes are available to anyone - faculty, students, staff - to get around campus. The only rules are that they can't be taken off campus and they must be left out in the open for the next person to use.”
The bikes are well used on campus by students and faculty
The first bikes were donated by a woman named Heidi Meyer Curry in memory of her brother, Walter P. “Wally” Meyer, a 1986 Southwestern graduate who died in 2004 following a bicycle accident in Austin. Curry wanted to do something to keep her brother’s memory and spirit alive. “We were delighted to get that recognition from the League of American Bicyclists,” Ellen Davis, Director of Communications at Southwestern University told BikeRadar. The Southwestern University Pirate Bike could just get the school even more recognition added Davis. “Our Pirate Bike Program began in September 2005 with a fleet of 30 bikes.”
The driving force behind the program has been Jerry Brody, vice president for student affairs. He is credited with creating a much more positive spirit on campus, and the bikes have also become a quirky recruiting tool as well. The Pirate Bikes are now prominently featured in admission materials and a Pirate Bike greets everyone who visits the school’s Admission Office. “As you can imagine, the bikes get a lot of wear and tear so they constantly need to be replaced,” added Davis. “In recent years, our Student Foundation has taken the lead in trying to raise money to keep the program alive. Last spring they sold some really cute Pirate Bike t-shirts that sold out almost immediately.”
Southwestern's Pirate Bikes are bright yellow, so to be easily spotted for use or if they wander off campus
Even the school’s president, Jake B. Schrum, is reportedly a big fan of the program; so much so that he had a special tandem Pirate Bike made for him and his wife. He even shows the Pirate spirit, said Davis, “they always ride it in the homecoming parade.”