COLUMBIA — Riding to the home opener on Saturday and finding a place to park could take on a new meaning - if you're willing to bike to the football stadium.
Sustain Mizzou, a student environmental group, will be providing free bicycle parking, known as Tiger Cage, at home football games for the rest of the season.
Tiger Cage, a new project for Sustain Mizzou, consists of portable bicycle racks that will be located on the grassy area just northwest of the Hearnes Center, near the intersection of Stadium Boulevard and Mick Deaver Drive, where it will not displace any vehicle parking. About 20 slots should be available at Saturday's game, and more slots will be added as the program expands, Pat Margherio, Sustain Mizzou president, said.
"It's very convenient," Margherio said. "It's almost closer than any parking you can get near the stadium."
Previously, there was no designated bicycle parking close to Memorial Stadium. As a result, Tiger fans locked their bikes to trees, Margherio said.
The idea originated with Colleen Lamond, director of game operations for the athletics department, who had seen a similar idea called the Duck Pond at the University of Oregon. At Oregon, however, the parking was not free.
Margherio and Lamond said it's important that MU does not charge for bicycle parking.
Margherio said that MU is trying to "give the community and students an ability to ride their bikes to football games and athletic events. It's even a benefit in terms of fuel costs, and you save money on parking."
Sustain Mizzou also recognizes the health and environmental benefits.
"It's promoting a carbon-neutral way of life," Margherio said. "You don't have to worry about the gas you're consuming. There is no fossil fuel consumption. It's healthier for you personally. It's exercise. It helps in all aspects of your environment as a person."
Sustain Mizzou and the athletics department initially had difficulty borrowing portable racks from PedNet and GetAbout Columbia to use because of the late start of the initiative. It has since succeeded in securing racks for every home game this season by working in conjunction with both organizations, Lamond said.
Margy Tonnies, the safe routes to school coordinator for PedNet, is optimistic about the Tiger Cage.
"There's a lot of momentum in Columbia right now," Tonnies said. "There are a lot of people biking now for transportation. This is another opportunity for people to use their bikes. It's just a matter of how they're going to work out how they tailgate. It's far easier to bike to a game than to drive."
Margherio also has high expectations for Tiger Cage.
The project "could eventually help traffic congestion and have a noticeable impact on game-day driving and parking," Margherio said.
Sustain Mizzou will be publicizing Tiger Cage at games with signs and fliers and on campus through the Wellness Resource Center, Facebook, campus e-mails and on the Sustain Mizzou Web site at students.missouri.edu/~sustainmizzou.
PedNet, which is working with Sustain Mizzou, will publicize the initiative with community newsletters and on its Web site at www.PedNet.org.
The PedNet Web site will have a mapping tool in the near future that people can use to find the best way to bike to the stadium from their location, Tonnies said.
"If people do have additional questions, the GetAbout Columbia program is a great resource to get information on bike safety and route planning," Tonnies said. "I encourage people to visit the Web site."