MU honors first Nobel Laureate with bicycle parking space

Smith has been parking his bike in front of Tucker Hall for the past 43 years.

It is tradition for some universities to provide their Nobel Laureates with a parking space for life. On Oct. 3, George Smith received the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Now it was MU’s turn to provide its first Nobel Laureate with a parking space. However, since Smith does not drive, MU decided to do something different.

“On other campuses, there is a tradition that Nobel Laureates receive lifelong free parking,” Patricia Okker, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said. “That is not a tradition that works well for us because we have a very special Nobel Laureate. Our Nobel Laureate rides.”

Operations Communications Manager Karlan Seville suggested the idea of a bicycle parking space.

“30 years ago, I visited … the University of California, Berkeley and I saw all of their Nobel Laureate parking signs,” Seville said. “It just left an impression on me. I thought ... if Mizzou ever has a Nobel Laureate, I would like to do that on our campus. When I found out he was a bicyclist, I thought that was even better because it’s a sustainability angle and I thought we should give him a bike space.”

On Thursday, Oct. 18, Smith parked his bicycle at the bicycle rack parking space that was now dedicated to him. The bicycle parking rack is located conveniently in front of Tucker Hall, where Smith has been parking his bicycle for the past 43 years.

Smith has been a long-time supporter of sustainability. He said that his bicycle has been a more efficient mode of transportation around campus than a car.

“I think our handsome campus should not be covered with parking lots,” Smith said. “I think twisted metal tubes would be better. I’m totally in favor of sustainability but for me, it really is a matter of convenience.”

In 1978 Smith was appointed to the City Commission on Bicycling and served for three years.

“That was the beginning of a city initiative to make biking easier and safer in our town,” he said.

Solomon Davis, junior and chair of MU Student Association External Affairs committee, also spoke at the event. Davis is an advocate for alternative transportation, according to Okker.

Davis was born and raised in Chicago where he said alternative modes of transportation are more common.

“Biking was one of the things instilled in me and was reinforced through constant family biking trips,” Davis said. “On our campus, alternative transportation helps offer more convenience and versatility than [cars].”

Alternative transportation will help MU reach its goal of carbon neutrality, a state in which the net amount of carbon is reduced to zero because of balanced actions to reduce carbon emissions.

“In this quest for carbon neutrality, every little bit helps,” Davis said. “We appreciate having students, faculty and staff who are committed to alternative transportation such as [Smith].”

Davis is working with various other committees to push the alternative transportation initiative.

“Reducing the number of vehicles on our campus helps keep it beautiful and reduces greenhouse gas emissions which is critical as Mizzou works toward carbon neutrality,” Davis said.

These partnerships are also focused on increasing safety at MU.

“[Missouri Students Association] MSA’s external affairs committee is working with the parking and transportation committee and the safety committee to ensure everyone is safe whether they arrive on campus by foot, scooter, bicycle or a vehicle,” Davis said.

To Smith, this dedicated space is symbolic. He permitted everyone to park their bicycles there.

“If you want to park there, please do,” Smith said. “If you get a ticket, see me and I think I can get it fixed.”

Edited by Morgan Smith | mosmith@themaneater.com

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