Marci Baranski said her cross-country bicycle ride started as a whim while riding past cornfields south of campus last summer.
“I was like, ‘what do I love more than biking?’ … I do all this activism with the fight against climate change. It was like, I guess I could combine them somehow,” the biochemistry senior said. “That night I went home, and I was reading this youth activism blog, and it was the grand announcement of (the Trek to Re-Energize America), and it was like, I have to do this,” she said.
The Trek to Re-Energize America is a nationwide bike ride to Washington, D.C., to lobby for climate change legislation. Baranski and six students from other universities began riding at the Rothbury Music Festival on Monday. They passed East Lansing on Wednesday and planned to pick up two more riders, recent MSU graduates Shayna Pierce and Kara Zdenek, Wednesday night.
Baranski said the trip will take 20 days, including two days of rest in Charleston, W.V.
“We have each day planned out, 60 miles max (per day),” she said.
Baranski said she was also inspired by studying abroad in Bangladesh.
The low-lying country has a densely populated coast and will be very vulnerable to rising sea levels, she said.
“Being in a country that will be so influenced by climate change, it really influenced the action I wanted to take,” she said.
The cyclists have appointments with their congressional representatives when they reach Washington, D.C.
“The idea is that we will lobby to our congresspersons, lawmakers, etc., for green jobs and environmental sustainability,” said Joe Roggenbuck, a sophomore at Central Michigan University. “Also a big thing … is the idea that we’re doing it on bikes because bikes don’t use oil and it’s a really environmentally sound thing.”
Bryce Johnson, a Ferris State University alumnus, said they also wanted to show that biking is a practical mode of transportation.
“You can actually hold stuff and get to work, and go a distance, you just have to plan some time,” he said.
Ferris State University alumna Anna Branner said the cyclists will use what they learn on the ride to make grassroots changes.
“We’re going to be educating ourselves about how people feel about the coal mining in their town, or … that nuclear power plant in their backyard,” she said. “We can bring that change back to our communities ourselves and make a change in our communities.”
Baranski said thus far the trip has gone well.
“We haven’t had any problems with the bikes, not even any flat tires, which is pretty amazing,” she said.
Nicole Crosson, a senior at Central Michigan University, said the farthest she had ridden before the trip was 27 miles in one day.
“(I’m feeling) really good actually,” she said. “The stretching really helps.”
The group is posting updates about the trip at 900miles.blogspot.com.