Eugene Kelly of UMKC Campus Facilities helps Beau Baker of Bridging the Gap unload loaner bicycles.

UMKC leads transportation trend

Clean Commute brings bicycles to students, faculty and staff

Over the course of the fall 2008 semester, one program has helped University of Missouri-Kansas City senior political science major Paul Raddant save money, improve his physical fitness and help the environment.

That program – Clean Commute – lent him a new Redline R540 multi-speed hybrid-style bicycle and lock for the semester.

In an effort to encourage alternative modes of transportation, Beau Baker launched the UMKC Clean Commute program in July. It already existed at non-profit company Bridging the Gap, but the Missouri Department of Transportation provided a grant that allowed the two-year pilot program to begin at UMKC. On a first-come, first-served basis, the program lent 26 bicycles and locks to students, staff and faculty. In the fall of 2009, Baker said the program will receive an additional 26 bicycles and locks. About 100 people are on a waiting list to rent bicycles, Baker said.

Similar programs exist across the country, but Baker said Clean Commute is unique to the Midwest.

“People are nuts about this,” Baker said. “It’s a gem. No other Missouri university has this program, and UMKC has the bragging rights here.”

Raddant agrees that UMKC is leading an alternative transportation trend, and that it will help foster UMKC’s move toward a residential campus.

“Transportation is becoming more and more of a problem for Kansas City,” Raddant said. “Now, it’s a lot easier to get to school. I’ve saved a lot of money.”

Raddant said he rides his bicycle to campus and work every day, unless the weather is bad. In that case, he uses The Metro bus system.

In the spring of 2009, Raddant will miss having his Clean Commute bicycle. He’ll go back to using his older bicycle, but Clean Commute’s new bicycle station – The Hub – will repair it for free. The Hub is located at 5301 Charlotte and is open from 1 to 6 p.m. on Mondays and 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. on Fridays.

As a bicycle mechanic at The Hub, Kat Dison said she repairs about five bicycles a week. She also teaches visitors how to repair their bicycles.

“My main goal is to get people on bikes,” Dison said. “I’m telling people to rent a bike somewhere else if they are on a waiting list (for a Clean Commute bicycle). And I will work on the rented bike.”

Even if people are on a waiting list to rent a bicycle, Baker said he hopes they consider all the benefits of riding a bicycle.

“It will make people think, ‘Maybe I should rent a bike. Hey, this is easy or it wasn’t what I thought it was,’” Baker said. “I really look forward to feedback.”

In the spring of 2009, Baker said he plans to install bicycle racks around the UMKC campus. The Clean Commute Advisory Group also is working on a five-mile campus bicycle map, which will chart the best bicycle paths.

Baker said he also hopes the program will expand to a point in which people can rent bicycles for an hour at a time or a semester at a time. When that happens, he said The Hub would be able to remain open longer.

Clean Commute provides a lock for each loaner bike.

“People are nuts about this. It’s a gem.”

Beau Baker, Clean Commute program manager