The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Riding around town: Chatham’s new focus on bike culture

Photo: Alice Shy

If you have walked by Café Rachel lately you may have noticed an overfilled bike rack. Bicycles packed in like unorganized sardines.

Biking has always been part of Chatham Culture but never has the university seen such a heightened interest in biking. Director of University Sustainability Mary Whitney had some insight on why this change occurred.

Bike culture has been consistent for many years but not noticeable to those who are not avid bikers, said Witney. The University has roots in the Chatham Bike Collective at Rea House.

“We have been biking for many years,” said Whitney.

In fact, Chatham has been acknowledge as a Bike Friendly Campus. It received a bronze rating from the League of American Bicyclist, a non-profit organization whose mission is to be a leader in making America more bike friendly.

Whitney hopes Chatham will move up to a silver rating. She is currently awaiting the results of their most recent audit.

Also in Chatham’s bike history, Chatham was one of the first universities to have bicycle police officers. This effort was made possible through the help of Dr. Mike Boyd, the assistant professor of music.

“Dr. Boyd helped us to become one of the first two institutions anywhere in the United States to offer the Federal Bike Commuter Tax Credit,” Whitney said.

According to the League of American Bicyclists’ website, The Federal Bike Commuter Tax Credit allows any employer, if they chose to do so, to provide reimbursement of up to twenty dollars per month for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee in conjunction with their commute to work by bike.

Since 2009, Chatham has had a Bike Support Group as a part of the Climate Action Plan. The first five-year plan to increase bike infrastructure is nearly complete.

The question still stands: why are there so many bikes on campus this year? Whitney admits that she was very surprised by the number of students who brought their bikes this year, and she is excited to say that more bike racks will be added to accommodate the larger population.

“The biggest environmental benefit of bikes after they have been built is that after they have been built and shipped, they emit no further pollution. With a carbon footprint of about 530 pounds of carbon over its life, a bike has a total carbon footprint at least 10 times less than a car, not to mention the lower impact from needing less space for roads, and putting significantly less wear and tear on the environment,” Whitney said.  ”And of course, the other huge plus is how much better they are for the rider.”

So how does one begin their journey into Chatham’s bike culture? The first step is getting a bike.

Bike Works, located in the lower level of Woodland Hall behind the Bookstore, offers a bike rental program. Students can rent a bike for a semester or a year. Rentals include a new helmet, bike lights, locks, a mini tool kit, and a seat cover.

“We have a fleet of twenty bikes and five of those have currently been rented. Bike Works often takes abandoned bikes on campus and fixes them up so they can go on to live productive lives,” Whitney said.

For Bike Works’ hours and more information on the program, e-mail [email protected]

The Pittsburgh area has also rolled out a bike sharing program called Healthy Ride. With this program, people may make short term rentals of bikes. The closest stations to Chatham are at Maryland and Walnut in Shadyside, or at Penn and Putnam at Bakery Square by Eastside. Learn more about the program at

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