SINCE I started writing this column eight years ago, much of the advice I’ve offered to new college students through the years has remained the same.
For instance, students and others who depend on their bikes for daily transportation should be on guard against bike theft at all times.
On the first day of your first class, look around. It’s nearly 100 percent certain someone in the room will become a victim of bike theft before Thanksgiving. The good news is you can take steps to significantly lessen the likelihood that it’s you.
Buy good quality locks (Yes, locks — get a U-lock and a cable lock, and use them simultaneously) and always lock your bike to something that isn’t going anywhere.
This does not include wooden porch railings, which can be kicked or sawed to release your bike. If you’re able, store your bike inside.
The good news, however, is that there are many more bike parking options available in Savannah since I first warned students about bike theft in 2011. The City of Savannah’s Mobility and Parking Services Department has continued to deploy sturdy bike racks all around town. They install them for free for local businesses.
So, if you find your favorite restaurant or store doesn’t have a bike rack, encourage the proprietor to request one.
Back in 2011 I also emphasized the importance of bike lights. Nothing has changed. A good quality headlight will help you see road debris, potholes, and other hazards at night. But even a cheap light can fulfill an even more important role: Helping drivers see you.
Reflectors are not sufficient and that’s why state law requires you to use a white light on the front of your bike when travelling at night. It does not require a red light on the rear of your bike, but you should definitely get one anyway.
If you don’t have bike lights, a local nonprofit organization will give you a set for free. That’s right. For free.
Eight years ago, the nonprofit was called the Savannah Bicycle Campaign. Now known as Bike Walk Savannah, the organization has been distributing lights to all who need them for more than three years.
That’s not all that’s changed. In 2011, Caila Brown was a SCAD student. Today she’s executive director of Bike Walk Savannah, which works to improve conditions for people who walk and ride bikes in Savannah. That means she works for you and she has some advice that’s not strictly bike related.
“Many students will only be here for four to five years,” Brown said. “Make the most of your time in our beautiful city — being able to make those connections and feel part of your adopted town will help you feel at home anywhere you go.”
Perhaps it’s better to wait until at least sophomore year to get involved in the community, you might be thinking. It’s a mistake to wait, she said.
“I often talk to people in their junior or senior years who wish they had done more in their freshman and sophomore years to feel part of the Savannah community, to give them a sense of home,” Brown said.
If you’re unsure how to get started, she recommends seeking out organizations whose missions align with your interests.
Brown said, “If you want to fully immerse yourself in the arts community, volunteer at one of our many local galleries or museums, or with Loop It Up Savannah. Like gardening, but you’re stuck in the dorms with no yard? Check out the Forsyth Farmers’ Market, Savannah Urban Garden Alliance, or the West Broad YMCA.”
Of course, if you like bikes, Brown has a very specific suggestion for you.
“Come see us at Bike Walk Savannah and volunteer at the New Standard Cycles Program, which provides bikes for people in need of reliable transportation,” she said.
Lara Isaacson is a Design for Sustainability MFA student at SCAD and serves on the Bike Walk Savannah board of directors. When talking with new students she likes to focus on New Standard Cycles and the progress being made on new infrastructure projects, but emphasizes the “great people you can work with in Savannah and the opportunity to do bigger impact work in a smaller city that is in the process of making major changes towards a more sustainable and equitable future.”
She said, “In a big city you are often one of thousands of volunteers. Although that is still important work, in Savannah you can be an integral part of a team, supporting meaningful change. The team knows you and values your work.”
New Standard Cycles volunteers refurbish donated bikes for deserving people every Thursday 7-9:30 p.m. and every Sunday 2-4:30 p.m. at 1301 Lincoln St. Don’t know anything about bike repair? Don’t worry! It’s a great way to learn how to maintain your bike. You can pick up a free bike light set while you’re there.
For more information visit https://bikewalksavannah.org/new-standard-cycles/