Take the Business Commute Challenge and ditch the car

Bike rider and  bike racks

May is officially Bike Month, by proclamation of the mayors of Eugene and Springfield, and the entire month is packed with events at the UO and in the community, including the Business Commute Challenge, where participants use alternative methods of transportation — not single-occupancy vehicles — to get to and from work.

This means busing, biking, walking, carpooling and literally getting to work any way but driving by yourself in a car.

“The challenge is put on by the Lane Transit District, so it’s a regionwide thing,” said Josh Kashinsky, the citation petition coordinator for the UO’s parking and transportation department. “Businesses form teams — and at an organization as large as the University of Oregon the teams are mostly split up by department — and then you compete with other teams of the same size.”

The sizes range from extra-small, with between two and six members, to extra-extra-large, for teams with more than 300 members. Scores are determined by taking the total number of days a team qualifies for divided by the number of team members.

This year’s challenge will be from May 13 to 19, with the last day falling on National Bike to Work Day.

Individuals can sign up for an existing team, or create one of their own, on the Business Commute Challenge’s website.

The UO is regularly one the biggest participants in the challenge, with 322 people signing up for 26 teams. This year even more people are involved: 388 people, or almost 20 percent of the challenge’s total participants, are from the UO, making up a record 39 teams.

According to Kashinsky, only 46 percent of UO faculty and staff regularly drive alone to work, so naturally, the UO has seen a lot of success in past Commute Challenges. Last year, the Sustainable Cities Initiative won the small division, the chemistry teaching labs won medium, and the math department placed third in the super competitive extra-large division, where the team size must be between 76 and 249 people.

Even if a team doesn’t win, members can still win prizes through a raffle. Prizes range from a two-night stay in an oceanfront hotel with $180 gift card for spa services in the five-day participant raffle to a free pizza from Papa’s Pizza in the one-day participant raffle. A full list of prizes can be found on the Commute Challenge website.

But the Commute Challenge isn’t the only thing happening at the UO for Bike Month. The Bike Program is playing a major role in coordinating events around the region and is hosting several of its own as well, including the Mountain Biking 101 and Bike Touring 101 classes.

“We’re working with a local group, Disciples of Dirt, to come in and talk about local mountain biking, what kind of trail options exist and what kind of bike you might want to bring as a beginner. It’s very informational,” said Kelsey Moore, the Bike Program coordinator.

“And then the bike touring class is kind of the same idea, we’re bringing students in to talk about bike tours they’ve done in the past,” she said. “They’re going to present for the students and then answer questions about what the best foods to bring are or where the best routes are.”

Moore said that while the Commute Challenge is a great way to get people to think about getting places without driving, for her the best aspect of the month is introducing students to a wide range of activities in an easily accessible format.

“Yes, there are always events happening,” she said, “but isn’t it great that we brought them all into one bundle so students can easily see what exists in our community? Bike Month lets them explore at the university and that’s great, but I think the real thing is if they want to go further they can, and this is their month to do that.”

By Noah Ripley, University Communications