By Catherine Hayward
March, 13, 2018
With a flash of orange, college students make it from one side of campus to another in just minutes.
A partnership between Furman’s Student Government Association and a San Francisco-based startup, Spin Bike, last October has greatly contributed to Furman’s mission of carbon neutrality by 2026. The University explains how, “by integrating sustainability into everything we do, we believe that we’re developing global citizens with the knowledge and tools to live a more sustainable lifestyle.” Scattered across campus, these bright orange, solar powered bikes are ready for use with the click of an app. Reliable and fast, this mean of transportation gets students to class on time and keeps the air clean.
By downloading the Spin Bike app onto a smartphone, individuals within range of the 100 bike fleet have instant access. Just 50 cents per 30 minutes, the bike automatically charges the credit card individuals links to the app. Equipped with a basket, an automatic lock, and solar panels that charge the lock, Spin Bikes are a convenient and sustainable option for anyone who can ride a bike.
Furman online news contributor, Tina Underwood said the Spin Bike system has had great success early on.
“In its first 20 days, the program saw 656 unique riders and 4,500 rides, and more rides at Furman in the first week than did Seattle, Spin’s inaugural launch site,” Underwood said.
Furman’s master plan for campus sustainability created in November 2009 declares that change is made when there is a sturdy plan in place.
“While such uncertainties (in the environment) can be daunting, it is critical that we set audacious goals now, even if those goals will necessarily be adjusted and refined as conditions change and circumstances require,” the master plan said.
“For more than a decade, we have pioneered sustainable practices and education in a campus environment, as well as guided our community toward a more sustainable future,” Furman website said. Spin Bike perfectly fit into this agenda.
Currently, the main drivers of climate change are a result of high fuel consumption, the emission of greenhouse gases, and air pollution. With programs like Spin Bike, Furman University is climbing closer to it’s goal of a campus wide reduction of these carbon emissions.
In April 2017, three Furman students, Grace Ratliff, Chriss Spires, and Hayden Anderson, participated in a sustainability course in which they examined biking on college campuses. Their study explored biking and how if used frequently, could encourage less car usage on campus. Ultimately, they predicted a decrease the levels of greenhouse gas emissions which aligns with Furman’s neutral carbon footprint.
The sustainability students’ survey revealed that 72% of students have a car on campus. Of that number, 56% drive up to 30 miles a week. This demonstrated that Furman students make a large contribution to greenhouse gas emissions with the use of fossil-fuel cars.
Cars are one of the most common carbon contributors. New parking laws, driving barriers, and speed signs at Furman have created an atmosphere that encourages other means of transportation.
In previous years, all ages of Furman students could drive to class and park in the main lots. This year, however, only seniors have access to the main lot. These changes greatly reduced the number of drivers and greenhouse emissions.
“Not being able to drive to class as a junior is a pain, especially if you’re running late. It keeps me more scheduled though. I am more accountable for leaving early and I consider other ways to get around,” student Mary Elizabeth Ward said.
The group of students are hopeful for the future of Furman’s carbon reducing mission.
The David E. Shi Center for Sustainability on Furman’s campus works with Furman and Student Government Association to bring programs like Spin Bike to campus to promote more sustainable lifestyles. Initially built as a LEED-certified Southern Living Showcase in 2008, the Shi Center has since been transformed into an office and classroom space for students pursuing an environmental track.
Associate Director of Sustainability Programs, Kelly Grant Purvis, described in 2017 that in order to reach carbon neutrality, there needs to be a change in the student body mindset. The Spin Bike could do just this, she explains.
“The goal is to make biking to class cool, making it the cultural norm,” she said.
Furman sophomore, Mclean Ewbank, has never learned to ride a bike. However, she admires the bikes and others who ride them.
“People seem to love them. They help you get to class and also bring a little bit of humor. People will leave the bikes all over the place, in the lake, on roofs, it’s hilarious,” she said.
The bright orange color of the bikes can’t be missed. This trademark is the perfect marketing. Students like Ewbank lookout for these bikes because of it. While they may be laughing at their occasionally unusual placement, students are noticing and acknowledging the bikes. Student interaction with the product is what has brought such success to the program.
Not only do these bikes promote a sustainable campus and help students get to class quickly, they also get people outdoors. Furman’s campus is placed adjacent to the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Running from downtown Greenville to Travelers Rest, this 19.9 miles path is perfect for a day time adventure.
“I run or ride my bike on the Swamp Rabbit almost everyday,” says Furman student Jessie Gallivan. “It’s so cool being able to run on such a long stretch while being surrounded by amazing scenery.”
The Swamp Rabbit Cafe is a common destination for students who bike. A short 4.5 miles from campus, the organic cafe is one of Gallivan’s favorite weekend destinations.
Whether grabbing a bite to eat, getting outdoors, or riding to class, there are multiple reasons to get on a bike as a Furman student. These kind of incentives help reduce Furman’s carbon footprint as well as promote a more eco-friendly campus.