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Biking for the planet

Look out for “Pit Stops” around campus during the upcoming Bike Commuter Challenge, which will feature more information on the challenge and city biking.

Loyola students, faculty, and staff are hitting the road on two wheels for the upcoming Bike Commuter Challenge on June 8 through 14 to help celebrate Chicago’s Bike to Work Week.

Each year, the Active Transportation Alliance (ATA) presents Chicago’s Bike to Work Week, an annual week-long event that encourages Chicagoans to ditch their cars or mass transit to get from point A to point B.

Since Loyola has become a leader in the urban green scene—take the launch of the new Institute of Environmental Sustainability, for example—it’s no surprise that the University makes an effort to partake in the challenge.  This year, the ATA is ramping up the competition by pitting companies with registered teams against each other, and grouping them by category and size.

April Whitworth, Loyola’s administrator for campus and community planning, is serving as this year’s team leader.

“Last year, it was disjointed,” Whitworth says. “Multiple departments were setting up different teams.”

Whitworth, who also serves as the advisor to ChainLinks and on the transportation committee, is responsible for setting up one team for Loyola, communicating with departments about the challenge, and recruiting riders to sign up.

This year, the numbers have more than doubled from the meager 15 or so registered participants from 2012. However, Whitworth says that the majority of students, staff, and faculty live within a biking distance from the University.

“More than numbers, I’d like to see a variety of departments and people participate,” she says.

Whitworth, who has nine years of bike-commuting experience, mentions that the Institute for Environmental Sustainability, Klarchek Information Commons, and Cudahy Library have many students and staff members that regularly ride their bikes to work.

One of the main goals for the challenge, Whitworth says, is to reduce single-occupancy vehicles on the road and the negative environmental impacts it entails.

Don’t have a bike? ChainLinks, Loyola’s student-run, non-profit bike shop, is offering a free Bcycle rental for registered Loyola team members, which includes a helmet, U-Lock, and lights.

Think biking the whole commute is too strenuous? The ATA’s definition of what constitutes entry into the Bike Commuter Challenge is to complete “at least one trip by bike either all or part of your commute at least once during Bike to Work Week.”

In other words, people can register for the team even if they only bike a portion of their commute one time.

“The challenge can pave the way for you to continue biking for transportation,” Whitworth says. “It only takes a few wonderful rides.”

To join the team, Loyolans need to create an account at Drive Less, Live More, a website that allows users to log their commutes and earn rewards, and then click on the “Bike Commuter Challenge” tab and join the Loyola University Chicago team.

After the challenge, the site will put together a data set of all the routes logged into Loyola’s team and compile the total miles traveled, calories burned, and fuel and greenhouse gasses saved.

Look out for “Pit Stops” (pictured above) around campus during the Bike Commuter Challenge, where Whitworth, ChainLinks, and sustainability specialist Gina Lettiere will have a table with more information on the challenge and city biking.

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