31 March 2018

A Harvard Debate On Bicycles

Students in universities like Harvard are known to probe for answers to all sorts of deep questions.

At least, in popular imagination, they are. 

(At this point, the Harvard graduates of my acquaintance might stop reading this post--or reading this blog altogether.  "There's no other university like Harvard!" they would protest.)

OK...So what sorts of questions might they ponder? Ones about the nature of the universe?  The meaning of life?

How about this:  Should the school's undergraduate council help to subsidize bicycle purchases at local shops for low-income students?  Or should the Council buy those bicycles and rent them on an annual basis?

(And here I thought Harvard didn't have low-income students.  Then again, to be fair, I should point out that Harvard's tuition is less than that of other Ivy League schools!)

However Council members discussed the subsidy-vs.-rental issue, they at least recognize that bicycles are important for students.  Some, of course, use them for transportation.  But Council representative Rainbow Yeung (With a name like that, she should be in Naropa University!) pointed out that bicycles can "definitely positively (Is that the Crimson way of saying "totally, absolutely"?) impact a lot of students' mental health."

A Harvard bicycle. Actually, it's a 1936 Rollfast "Harvard".  I know it has nothing, besides the name, to do with this article.  But I love the way it looks!

So she and the Council have good intentions, at least.  But those who oppose the subsidy idea believe that purchasing bikes and renting them out to students would "take away the upfront costs and make sure it stays within the community," in the words of representative Victor Agfabe.  On the other hand, proponents of the subsidy say that maintaining a fleet of bikes "makes it clear that, oh, here are the UC bikes for the students on financial aid," according to fellow representative Amanda Flores.

The two sides debated, as such folk are wont to do.  And, last week, they took a vote.  In the end, they went with the subsidies.  The Undergraduate Council decided to allocate $3000, of which any one qualifying student can receive $50.  

Students may also use their money to purchase a skateboard or scooter.  I have to wonder, though, how much skateboard, scooter or bicycle they can buy for $50:  they are all just about as expensive in the Boston area as they are here in New York!


  1. I think that might buy some nice handlebar grips...

  2. My alma mater & former employer (Go Ramblers!)had a student-run bike rental programme. Financial need didn't play into it. Bikes were rented for the semester. It strikes me as odd that the Harvardites were so concerned about appearances and fears of low-income-shaming.

  3. I love the way your focus goes zapping merrily around the conceptual landscape. "I know it has nothing ...to do with this article, but..."

    Harvard? A better name would have been "Blue Whale".

  4. Coline--I agree. Don't you love the ones on the "Harvard"?

    Mike--Somehow I'm not surprised that your school/employer is enlightened in a less self-conscious way than Harvard.

    Leo--I like to have fun. That's why I ride--and write this blog!