Rutgers University is ranked “among the nation’s top 5 higher education institutions for commitment to diversity.” The university has more than 3,300 international students from 125 nations around the world. Moving to a new country can be challenging and intimidating, but Rutgers offers extensive support for international students to try and make the transition as comfortable as possible. This includes the six-day International Student Orientation, a mandatory conference-like program with a flexible schedule of workshops. Orientation took place from August 27 to September 1, and the BPRC’s New Jersey Ambassadors in Motion (NJ AIM) were excited to be invited by Rutgers to host a bicycle workshop.
NJ AIM conducts outreach that is consistent with the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (NJ DOT) commitment to education and encouragement of bicycling in the state for commuting and recreation purposes. NJ DOT publishes resources intended to enhance safety and enable bicyclists to find places to ride, as well as tools for planners and engineers to better design bicycle-compatible facilities. The orientation aligned with NJ AIM’s objectives, which include four forms of outreach: event outreach, classroom outreach, on-street outreach, and municipal/governmental outreach and assistance. In this classroom setting, NJ AIM members covered a variety of topics, including:
- Overview of the BPRC and NJ AIM
- Why crashes happen
- How to choose a bicycle
- Where to purchase or rent a bicycle
- Basic bicycle equipment
- Principles of traffic laws
- What to do before riding
- Where to ride
- How and where to park a bicycle
- How to attach a bicycle to a bus rack
- How to have further involvement with the BPRC and NJ AIM
Over 30 students attended the session, coming to Rutgers from France, Germany, India, South Korea, China, Colombia, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal and Slovenia. More than half of the participants came from China. Xinyu Lu, an undergraduate student from China planning to study computer science, said that he really appreciated gaining some formal instruction from peer mentors on how to deal with bicycles at Rutgers. “The most helpful part was the live demonstration of how to fit a bicycle and maintain it.” Charles Wandalo, an undergraduate from Kenya, had similar feelings: “Previously, I have only been self-taught how to ride a bike and had never been made aware of techniques for checking the bike before riding.”
Since many types of bicycle crashes are the fault of the cyclist, riding safely and following traffic laws can eliminate a great deal of the risks involved with riding in a shared space with vehicular traffic. The Ambassadors highlighted traffic law principles that will allow the participants to confidently share the road while riding within the law and being predictable and visible to motorists. This should serve to benefit both the students and the cycling community by providing a cheap and efficient transportation mode while adding numbers to the growing cycling movement in New Jersey.
After the success of this year’s workshop, NJ AIM will be a part of International Student Orientation for years to come, and is excited to continue welcoming new students to the United States while giving them the tools to be responsible cyclists and valuable advocates for active transportation.
 “We Are Diverse”, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2012. Accessed September 4, 2012. <http://www.rutgers.edu/about-rutgers/we-are-diverse>