Lindsay Selser '07 believes riding bicycles could change the world

by University Communications,

When her bike was stolen, Lindsay Selser ’07 didn’t have money to buy a new one. So she got inventive.

Using needle nose pliers and box wrenches, she and her boyfriend foraged through a bike shop’s recycle bin and built a used bicycle from the frame out.

The experience inspired Selser to create a space on campus where students could maintain and work on their own bikes. Nearly a year later — after Selser earned grants and secured permission from university administrators — Willamette’s Bike Shop opened for business.

“That’s when I knew I was in a special place,” Selser says. “I had this idea, and no one was telling me I couldn’t make this happen. I really thought of it as a legacy I would leave Willamette.”

Today, Selser regularly uses the leadership, planning and communication skills she gained from that experience at her job as a transportation planner for the City of Eugene.

“I discovered my skills, honed my passion and ran with it,” says Selser, who is now married with an infant daughter. “Every event you put on, every time you have to interact with another human being in a public space, you are gaining skills — and you take those skills with you everywhere.”

Crusade for the Bike Shop

As a student, Selser was intent on making the most of her Willamette experience. She majored in politics, served on the university’s first sustainability council and worked at the Bistro. To raise money for women’s anti-violence groups, she also acted in — and later directed — “The Vagina Monologues” on campus.

Through a study abroad program, Selser lived in Paris for part of her junior year. She discovered her bike had been stolen when she returned. Only after successfully building a new bicycle from used parts did Selser realize how Willamette students would benefit from having their own bike shop.

She shared her idea with professors and administrators, and was soon connected with Director of Recreation Bryan Schmidt. Together, they secured space in the University Center, honed the safety and advocacy services the shop would provide, and applied for and received a couple grants — including one for $5,000 from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

“I remember Lindsay being incredibly resourceful and thoughtful,” Schmidt says, adding that she motivated people with cookies from the Bistro. “The Bike Shop fills a much-needed gap on campus.”

The center first opened shortly before Selser graduated, featuring a fleet of eight bikes.

Today, 40-plus bicycles are available for long- and short-term rentals. Five undergraduates work as bike technicians, and a recycling program was added to transform old inner tubes into purses, wallets and other accessories by a Seattle-based upcycling company.

To professor Joe Bowersox, Selser’s thesis advisor, the shop’s opening was an early, collaborative win for sustainability on campus. Best yet, the experience helped Selser establish her career with the City of Eugene.

“Lindsay continues to be such a change agent in her community today,” Bowersox says. “She has never stopped, and always remained committed to making her community and our world a more just and sustainable place to live.”

Giving Back

Selser’s work with the Bike Shop in 2007 resulted in a front-page story in the Oregonian. In it, Selser mentioned her desire to work for the City of Eugene. Her current boss saw the article, called her, and invited her to his office to interview for an internship.

Not only was she hired, Selser was offered a permanent position six months later. Through her job managing Eugene’s Transportation Options Program, Selser strives to reduce drive-alone trips and increase biking, walking and carpooling.

“People laugh when they hear this, but riding bikes could actually change the world,” she says. “They can revolutionize the way our cities work by reducing gas emissions and climate change. They can improve the livability of our cities by promoting exercise and combating obesity.”

When not busy with her job or her family, Selser also serves as board president for Sexual Assault Support Services (SASS), a Eugene nonprofit that helps survivors of sexual assault.

“It stemmed from my work at Willamette, the idea of being of service,” says Selser, referring to her various roles in “The Vagina Monologues” and the university’s motto, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.”

“The organization has become so much a part of me. I feel really grateful to have a small role in helping people when they really need someone.”

Selser’s efforts to improve her city — both through her job and SASS — earned her a 20 Under 40 Award in 2013. Bestowed by Blue Chip, Lane County’s monthly business magazine, the honor recognizes professionals younger than 40 for their leadership and commitment to service.

To Selser, the award is a testament to the skills she learned as an undergrad — from the leadership she exhibited while directing a play and opening the Bike Shop to the confidence she gained from navigating Paris through a study-abroad program.

“The opportunities I was able to have in leadership at Willamette taught me that I could take my skills and really make a career out of them,” she says. “Extra-curricular life shaped who I am now professionally.”