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Bikes + Sustainability + MIT = Innovation

This week, we announced our latest round of Bicycle Friendly Universities. We were impressed by the innovation and creativity in Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s application, a new Silver-level Bicycle Friendly University. This blog, about MIT’s “culture of innovation” is written by Sarah Brylinsky, MIT Office of Sustainability, and Robert Boes and Melissa Shakro, both with the MIT Office of Campus Planning. 

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is proud to receive the Silver‐level Bicycle Friendly University Award from the League of American Bicyclists.

Human power in general, and bicycle technology in particular, make for excellent design and engineering projects.

Supporting biking infrastructure and incentivizing cycling for community members is a central part of the MIT commitment to creating a sustainable campus, and ensuring a healthy campus community. In addition, the development of new bicycle technology has an established role in MIT’s culture of innovation and invention through classes, labs and research initiatives.

Access and safety are top priorities for the institute in promoting cycling. Infrastructure around the MIT campus supports safe cycling for MIT and its neighbors through the integration of a cycle track and bike lanes that connect with the surrounding Cambridge community. There are eight bicycle fix‐it stations around campus that ensure quick access to tools for commuters and cyclists on the go. For community members without a bicycle, the annual MIT Bike Auction provides a low‐cost purchasing option to encourage bike ridership. The auction also provides a recycling mechanism for discarded bikes on campus. 

MIT has great innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, and bicycles fit into this tradition. Human power in general, and bicycle technology in particular, make for excellent design and engineering projects. Students are involved in the creation of real‐time solutions through classes like Comfort in Motion, an architectural class focused on designing strategies to promote comfortable human‐powered mobility through outdoor spaces. The D‐Lab: Cycle Ventures course explores bicycle technology to provide human power for an increasing array of purposes including water pumping, agricultural processing and transport in underserved communities around the world with the aim of boosting economic opportunity.

MIT’s sustainable goals and innovative spirit meet in the lab, where researchers and faculty are involved in the creation of new bicycle technologies. The Copenhagen Wheel, for example, harvests energy wasted in cycling and braking and saves it for when cyclists need a boost, as well as powering data‐collection on air and noise pollution, congestion and road conditions. MIT is committed to promoting bicycle use as a sustainable and healthy mode of transportation for our students, faculty and staff, while the inquisitive and creative nature of these same campus community members drives development of innovative technology and non‐traditional uses for bicycles.