Ripon College president David C. Joyce with his cycling gear. (Photo courtesy of Ripon College.)Ripon College is offering a free Trek mountain bike to new students who come to campus this fall and sign a pledge to leave their cars at home.

Campus officials say their “Ripon Velorution Program” is the first such initiative in the U.S.

A four-year liberal arts college founded in 1851, Ripon College is located in Ripon, Wisconsin. The state is also home to two Trek Bike factories, one in Waterloo and one in Whitewater.

“We obviously live in a car culture,” said Ripon president David C. Joyce, himself an avid cyclist. “That’s not about to change, but if a significant number of students learn that a car isn’t a necessity at this stage of their lives, that’s good enough for us.”

Ripon developed its “Velorution” program — part “revolution,” part “velo” (French for bicycle) — in hopes of avoiding the need to build additional student parking. Instead of laying down more asphalt, the college decided to try buying 200 new bicycles — enough for about two-thirds of the expected 300 first-year students arriving this fall.

New students who agree not to bring a car to campus in 2008-2009 will receive not only a free bike but a helmet and bike lock as well.

“Parking in this case is a distant third to the health and fitness of our students, and responsible energy practices,” Joyce said. “For students, it’s a lifestyle choice. For Ripon College, it’s choosing sustainability over ease and convenience.”