Green Bike Program Helps Students Shape the World Around Them
Dr. Barbara Engebretsen, professor of exercise science at Wayne State College, commands a bicycle fleet of five new cruiser one-speed bikes through a program that is changing perspectives on bike use in the community and has helped students learn how to become effective service leaders since 2006.
Wayne State College students can check out a bicycle as they would a library book on campus at the Student Center. An estimated 120 or more students from her PED 310 Leadership and Professional Development class have helped with the effort by becoming part of her crew throughout the years.
"This kind of effort involves students by taking them out of the passive role in learning and challenging them to become an active professional and servant leader,'' Engebretsen said. "Making a change in the culture and the community for more bike use takes time.''
During her time as “fleet commander”, Engebretsen has watched over many students throughout the years in her effort to increase the use of bikes to reduce the use of fuel and increase the overall health of people. Some of the students have become members of a new Bike Club on campus. The Bike Club is complete with a constitution and a theme song, "Bicycle Race'' by the British band Queen. Jared Heinen of Humphrey, an applied human sport and physiology major, is the charter president of the club.
"Club members, SHAPE (Students Helping Achieve Physical fitness and Exercise) members and the Service-Learning Program on campus have been instrumental,'' Engebretsen said.
Available to be checked out by leaving a valid student, staff or faculty identification card and signing a liability waiver, the bikes will eventually be available at two locations, the Student Center and the Recreation Center. The student will be loaned a bike, helmet and a lock until they return it for their identification card to the information desk in the Student Center Atrium.
The name Green Bikes came from an initial donation in 2009 by Wayne City Administrator, Lowell Johnson, to paint recovered bikes green for a bike-share program.
"Even though the current bikes come in all colors, the name 'Green Bikes' endures,'' she said. "I like it because it also denotes Earth friendly and healthy. I have also received an offer by a local business person to paint the bikes, if the program takes off.''
Engebretsen hosted a bicycle stake holders meeting Sept. 19 to discuss updates and next actions in the support of healthy bicycling in Wayne and on the Wayne State College campus.
"The students who participate learn communication skills, teamwork and collaboration skills, make friendships, learn network skills, and find they can make a difference,'' Engebretsen said.
"The effort helps students see that as people they have something to offer the world.''
As a mentor and an educator, Engebretsen helps her students with their concerns as they develop, execute and assess various projects.
"Students are given as much ownership of the project as possible. Each semester, they learn the history, progress and status of the project. Then they brainstorm what to do next, are guided in developing a plan of action, making contacts with campus and community partners and if necessary, requesting grant funding.'' she said.
The class involves students who are at least in their sophomore year.
"Students are at a time in their life when they start to realize that they won't be on campus forever and with a higher education that they should see that they have a privilege and responsibility to become civic leaders. The goal of the course is to challenge them to see themselves as leaders and I believe that the best leaders are servant leaders," Engebretsen said.
The program has a Facebook page and will eventually have a website, created by Wayne State College graduate student Bosun Babalola of Nigeria and WSC undergraduate student Amreen Hossain of Alexandria, Va., both students of the Computer Information Systems program on campus with Dr. Tim Garvin.
Dr. Laura Dendinger of the Wayne State College School of Business and Technology has two classes working on developing a green bike program logo and marketing brand through Service-Learning efforts.
The original group of students even involved a student from Geneva, Switzerland, who brought a European view to the program. Bike sharing was common in Europe, but relatively unknown in the U.S. at that time. But the idea was intriguing and has finally been implemented this fall after a number of years of setting the foundation and groundwork.
"Our first task was to survey interest in bikes and identify obstacles as to why people don't bike,'' Engebretsen said. "We also did a visual survey to determine accessibility to see if people felt safe on bikes in traffic. We gathered information and then brainstormed ideas as a class. We found that most people wanted to ride bikes. A few of the factors that limited bike use that we could not control included winter weather, but having a bike in good condition or not having a bike to ride were obstacles we could address. We started to look at what can we do as a class to remove some of these obstacles within a semester.''
Adding bike racks downtown seemed to be an important aspect of bike use. Engebretsen's group won a 2008 Award of Excellence for Nebraska Main Street streetscape/public space improvement under $50,000 for the rustic bike racks that were entered in the competition by Wes Blecke, director of Wayne Area Economic Development.
"Our class developed a design to compliment the new Main Street Business District renovations and encourage students to patronize downtown businesses,” Engebretsen said. “Four old-fashioned bike racks were added downtown."
Earth Day bike rides have helped awareness of the project. The 2008 Soles on Wheels project involved Engebretsen's PED 310 students led by classmates Ann Beiermann of Columbus, Megan Hogmire of Burwell, Stacy Jorgensen of Kent, Wash., and Hayley Pile of Wayne, who along with faculty members Dr. Jean Karlen, Buffany DeBoer, and Dr. Barbara Engebretsen attended the Applied Learning in Higher Education Conference in February 2008 at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo.
These students assisted Engebretsen in the spring 2008 semester of PED 310 acting as student leaders and colleagues to facilitate the Service-Learning project to be completed as part of the course requirement. This class conducted the "Soles on Wheels" bike event on April 13 to promote biking and collect shoes for "Soles4Souls", an organization that distributes shoes to disaster areas. The following semester, these students submitted a presentation of this project to the Midwest Consortium for Service-Learning in Higher Education in South Dakota, and received recognition for Student Excellence in Service-Learning.
"This was a valuable opportunity for these students to see Service-Learning from the perspective of facilitators and community partners," Engebretsen said.
Engebretsen again took two students, Austin Donner of Wausa and Andre McIntyre of Omaha, to the 2009 conference in Missouri. They led the charge that year when Lowell Johnson, Wayne city administrator, proposed a bike share idea. City and campus police have added bikes that have been recovered and never claimed for use with the project.
"We were given paint for bikes, a shed to store and work in and six to eight bikes to paint green,'' Engebretsen said. These bikes have been used during Earth Day rides, and other events.
The 2010 group took a break from the bike project to help with Haiti Earthquake relief. The 2011 and 2012 groups were able to put many necessary final touches on the projects, such as getting legal approval of a liability waiver from the Nebraska State College System Board of Trustees and other logistical details worked out that allowed them to launch the Green Bike Share program this fall.
Keeping bicycles running and in good repair is another obstacle Engebretsen is addressing with several faculty partners. Professor John Renzelman has been partnering with Engebretsen on how to fix bikes and plan workshops. Professor Sherry Dorman built her 2011 Leadership Institute for Elementary Students around the bike projects, receiving Service-Learning funding to support the projects and involving education majors and elementary students from Northeast Nebraska. Another aspect of the project as it evolves may be mentoring and helping people learn to fix their own bikes.
"We are hoping to have one or two workshops this fall for fixing bikes and more in the spring,'' Engebretsen said.
Much of the bike projects have been supported by funding from WSC Service-Learning sub grants. Service-Learning grants at WSC were formerly part of a larger grant from the Midwest Consortium for Service-Learning in Higher Education (MCSLHE) made possible through the Corporation for National Service under the Learn and Serve America: Higher Education grant program. Currently, Service-Learning at WSC is funded through the Nebraska Campus Compact. Throughout the years, Service-Learning funds have paid for bike racks, publications including laminated maps of the Wayne bike trail, bike tools and supplies such as chains, tubes, helmets, chains and other pumps. This support has now been generously supplemented by allocations from WSC Student Senate.
For information: Dr. Barbara Engebretsen, (402) 375-7044