Utilizing MSU's 'brainpower' to strengthen local sustainable transit

Nearly one year ago, Tim Potter, MSU sustainable transportation manager, along with numerous other bike partners and supporters, hosted the first ever Bicycle Friendly America Conference on campus. At the event, MSU was recognized with a silver-level Bicycle Friendly University award, but Potter was already looking to the next step: working in collaboration with the local community to achieve a platinum-level Bicycle Friendly University. The partnerships forged through that commitment would prove beneficial not only to the university, but also to the surrounding cities.

Over the last year, Potter has worked in collaboration with city officials around the Greater Lansing area to improve biking conditions for MSU’s neighboring communities. Most notably, he was instrumental in helping the City of East Lansing get certified as a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. "All of the universities that hold platinum status have one thing in common," said Potter, "they are embedded in cities that are also extremely bike-friendly. By helping our neighboring communities, we benefit MSU." Enhancing the cycling safety and ease of the surrounding areas improves transportation to and from campus for many MSU students, staff and faculty—a benefit that contributes to a platinum-level bike-friendly university.

A photo of Tim Potter, sustainable transportation manager, in the MSU Bikes Service Center.

Tim Potter, MSU sustainable transportation manager, in the MSU Bikes Service Center. Photo courtesy of Jordan Noble, Michigan State University.

Additionally, Potter gets involved with local town halls, construction proposals, transportation committees and more—all in an effort to spread awareness about cycling safety and advocate for more community cycling features like bike lanes, bike racks and signage. Recently, he's been advising East Lansing on a bikeshare program for downtown, using his expertise and position on campus to help uncover savings and maintenance partnerships with MSU.

"The City of East Lansing is looking into a bikeshare program, but cost is a huge factor," said Amy Schlusler, community development and engagement manager for the City of East Lansing, "one of the ways we've brainstormed reducing that cost is by partnering with the Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) to expand MSU's bikeshare program to the downtown East Lansing area."

Established in 2015, ASMSU's bikeshare program provides non-vehicular transportation options to students through bike rentals. With a 40-bicycle fleet, bikes can be checked out across campus in several convenient locations. Expansion of the program to downtown East Lansing would not only help offset the cost of a bikeshare program for the city, but would also strengthen communication lines between the city and MSU. With excellent bike repair facilities, knowledgeable staff and passionate students, MSU has a unique ability to advise the city on best practices, sound investments and cycling trends, removing some of the risk of starting their own bikeshare program.

"To tap into the experts and brainpower of a university right across the street is a huge benefit," said Schlusler, "and to know we have a captive audience in the students, who increasingly advocate for sustainability, makes the partnership that much more beneficial."