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A pilot bike program for employees aims at efficiency, healthy living and leaving a smaller carbon footprint

Mike Pipher and Jaclyn Lansbery

Oct. 17, 2013

Employees of IU Bloomington’s utilities department are used to walking long distances to document utilities on campus.

But a new bicycle pilot program, launched in September, may allow those employees to do their job a little faster and more efficiently while getting some exercise.

“With the bike, it’s easier to get around in some areas,” said Kevin Mingee, utility documentation technician at IU’s physical plant. “We have plans to mount our GPS pole on our bike. That way, instead of having to walk a center line of the road, we can actually ride, which will make it a lot quicker.”

The pilot program, made possible through IU’s Healthy Change Fund, began last month with the purchase of three bikes that are being rotated between three IU Physical Plant departments: utilities, campus division and Zone II, an area within building maintenance.

Employees of each department will have the opportunity to test each of the bicycles to see what works for them and then make suggestions on how to modify the bikes to best suit their needs.

IU Outdoor Adventures is helping to maintain the bikes.

So far, staff has been eager to share their experiences, said Jamie Gayer, human resources manager for the physical plant.

“The feedback we've been receiving has been positive,” Gayer said. “The employees are excited to be able to use the bikes.”

One person who has been a major supporter of the program from the beginning is Lee Walters, utility information manager of the utilities department.

When they are not walking, her crew gets around using an all-terrain vehicle.

“With my diverse crew, I figured it would be a perfect opportunity to see what we could do with them,” Walters said. “One of our major goals is conservation, so riding a bike kind of makes sense for us.”

Although the program is still in the early stages, utility department staff have put their first test bike to good use and has already had a customized metal box made to hold their equipment.

So far, they’ve figured out that the trike model might not be best suited for their needs because of its lack of gears, maneuverability and heavy weight.

That hasn’t deterred the group’s hope that one of the bikes will eventually have a permanent home in their department.

“There are always going to be projects on campus, there’s always going to be something going on -- and from this location, it just kind of makes sense to have a bike,” Walters said. “I could be over at the job site in seven minutes on the bike while it's going to take me 15 to 20 to walk over there.”

In addition to efficiency, Walters believes a bike will also give her crew a chance for some extra physical activity during their working day.

“One of the reasons I wanted it was at lunch time, or break time, just to hop on the bike and take a spin,” Walters said. “Over here where the trees are and the sidewalks and the streets are really quiet, they’ll have a chance to get away from everything.”

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