Sidebar hit the streets of downtown Raleigh on a gorgeous afternoon earlier this month to experience firsthand what might be the coolest contraption any law school in the county has in its toy chest—a giant orange bicycle, seating seven in the round.
Rich Leonard, dean of Campbell Law School, discovered the gadget, called a Conference Bike, while at a moot court competition at the University of Vienna in Austria, which has one. The Campbell students loved it, and Leonard, not unlike your child around Christmastime, informed the university that it was awesome and he wanted one. And so now he does, custom-made in bright orange, the school’s color.
When Sidebar saw the bike during a previous visit—and it is hard to miss—he insisted on being taken for a spin, and Leonard graciously obliged. The way it works is one person, invariably Leonard, sits in the driver’s seat with a steering wheel and the brakes, and everyone else helps chip in the mule power to pedal it. Operating it is apparently easier if you learned how to drive a tractor at age seven, as Leonard did.
So Leonard, Sidebar, and five others (including a few other first-timers) took a ride around downtown Raleigh, past the State Capitol and the state’s Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, and providing quite the amusement for pedestrians we passed by.
Sidebar sat facing the dean, so while he therefore couldn’t see where we were going, he could at least see where we’d been. The first turn was thus a bit nerve-wracking, knuckles white on the bike’s central handlebar, but then you get the hang of it and the experience is just delightful.
Much of the chat focused on Raleigh itself, as this year the law school is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its move to the capitol. Both school and city have grown a great deal together since then, and Raleigh may change even more profoundly in its next decade. Two blocks immediately near the school are both earmarked for planned skyscrapers, which the school’s director of communications likened to the children’s book about the little house that sees a bustling city sprout up around it.
Leonard said he could think of no other law school in the country sited in a more advantageous location than downtown Raleigh, with the plentitude of opportunities within easy walking (or biking) distance of the school, in a city that is going from strength to strength. (That’s a paraphrase—it’s hard to take meticulous notes while cycling.) He would say that, of course, but it’s also hard to disagree with him.
Leonard said he’s gotten quite a few inquiries from organizations looking to borrow the bike. He guards it rather protectively, but if you’re looking for a way to enliven your next meeting, it’s a pretty nice way to go.