Stanford’s fourth annual Bike Safety Dorm Challenge generated friendly competition among 25 undergraduate residences from Sept. 17 through Dec. 13, 2013. A record 1,131 Stanford undergraduates pledged to bike safety, up from just over 665 students when the challenge launched in 2010.
Stanford’s Parking & Transportation Services (P&TS) awarded two grand prizes: a free charter bus trip to Lake Tahoe for each of the two winning dorms. Crothers surpassed other dorms by attaining the highest number of participants with 259 students pledging, setting a record since the challenge launched.
Casa Zapata, Enchanted Broccoli Forest (EBF) and Muwekma-tah-ruk tied for first when each dorm reached 100 percent participation. EBF was the lucky winner of a three-way-tie prize drawing, clinching one of the two trips to Tahoe.
Michael Chen, ’14, resident assistant (RA) for Crothers, said that their dorm benefited at the start from having the largest number of dorm residents. The hurdle they had to overcome was to sign up a large number of participants in a short time, since their dorm joined the competition later than Roble, another large dorm on campus.
“Roble's always done quite well, and they won last year, but this year our staff decided to put in a lot of effort in getting residents to sign the pledge,” Chen said. “We used emails, the Crothers Facebook page, hall meetings and other opportunities to talk to residents about the importance of biking safely, especially wearing helmets. We were able to make a comeback because we had more people and because we got residents passionate about bike safety and winning the challenge.”
Will Hamilton, ’15, the RA for the Enchanted Broccoli Forest, said the lure of a free charter bus and a competitive spirit to best other residences on campus were EBF’s motivation for winning. He added that making everyone a lot safer was a useful side effect of the competition.
“We actually have several residents who have survived serious crashes,” Hamilton said. “One resident crashed without a helmet in the first week of her freshman year at Stanford and cracked her head open. Fortunately she is well today! We also have someone who has had over three concussions. These examples helped to demonstrate the wisdom in protecting one's head.”
In one recent illustration of the risk of not wearing a helmet, Stanford graduate students smashed watermelons around the Stanford soccer field before the players arrived to simulate what could happen to bicyclists’ heads without helmets—and to motivate athletes to wear helmets when riding around campus. Smashing watermelons was the first of a number of actions students at the Graduate School of Business took in a class project to increase bike helmet use at Stanford.
Hayagreeva (Huggy) Rao, Atholl McBean Professor of Organizational Behavior and Human Resources at the Graduate School of Business, and Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at the School of Engineering, included the students’ project among examples of principles to successfully scale support for a cause. Their book Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More Without Settling for Less, publishes in February and was recently reviewed in Forbes.
In addition to the GSB and Engineering School, other Stanford departments and bike safety champions are working to encourage more students to wear a helmet for every ride and follow the rules of the road.
Brodie Hamilton, director of Parking & Transportation Services, said it is encouraging to see a groundswell of campus partners engaged in finding creative ways to increase helmet use and bike safety at Stanford. According to P&TS, the number of riders who forego a helmet warrants these efforts.
Helmet use is estimated to be 11 percent for Stanford’s undergraduate population and 40 percent for graduate students. Among all Stanford affiliates, including university, hospital and postdocs, an estimated 36 percent of bicyclists wear helmets at Stanford. Hamilton cites these figures along with the serious consequences of not wearing a helmet as reasons P&TS launched the annual Bike Safety Dorm Challenge.
“We want the incentive of winning a trip to Lake Tahoe to build excitement and momentum for bike safety generally and helmet use specifically,” he said. “We hope the record-setting participation in our latest Bike Safety Dorm Challenge indicates that Stanford’s culture is tipping in favor of bike safety. Our goal is for every rider to have the mindset of ‘don’t leave home without it’—your bike helmet, that is.”
Number of participants: 1,131
Dorms posting 100%: three-way-tie between Casa Zapata, Enchanted Broccoli Forest (EBF) and Muwekma-tah-ruk, with Enchanted Broccoli Forest (EBF) winning the prize drawing
Pledges: 18% of undergraduate students
Participation: 32% of undergraduate dorms (25 dorms out of 78)
Ariadne Delon Scott, Parking & Transportation Services: (650) 725-2453, email@example.com.