I spent my first two years of university at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, a small liberal arts college situated along a mile-long “Middle Path” pedestrian and bike trail. There wasn’t much need for a car on campus. Ten years later, current Kenyon students continue to use Middle Path to bike or walk to class, go to the post office, or visit Gambier’s small cluster of shops, bars and coffee houses.
I think my fellow Kenyon students generally trusted one another - some of them left their dorm room doors and bikes unlocked. However, it wasn’t uncommon to wake up in the morning and find that your bike had mysteriously disappeared overnight. It was disconcerting, but chances were that it was not lost and gone forever. It was probably just left somewhere on the other end of Middle Path by a sleepy student who didn’t feel like walking the mile home after studying (or partying) until 3 o’clock in the morning. It was annoying and technically theft, but many times these bikes were getting “borrowed” in moments when people could really use a bike. Some people got really mad when their bike was taken. Others laughed and joked about the unspoken etiquette of “borrowing” bikes (something that I never did, for the record). We made up fake rules, like #1 Return the Bike When You Are Done Using It!
This memory popped into my head after reading an Associated Press article about how “bike-sharing” is becoming a trend across the country. Cities and universities are trying out things like community bike kiosks and stations that allow people to use public bikes for free or a minimal charge. Here in Michigan, the MSU Bikes (on-campus bike shop, repair, and rental) deserves kudos for making bikes more accessible to students. Students at the University of Michigan are exploring the viability of bike-sharing programs.
Jennifer Eberbach is a professional journalist and writer. Find contact information on her website www.jenthewriter.info