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New bike rental program launches

McKenzie Berezin/Daily
LSA senior Nikole Hampton locks up her bike in front of Angell Hall on Monday. Buy this photo

By Marie Tysman, For the Daily
Published September 17, 2012

Students struggling to make it to class on time now have a new environmentally friendly way to avoid being tardy.

This fall, the University launched Blue Bikes, a program that provides bicycle rentals for students, faculty and staff. Available through Outdoor Adventures — a Recreational Sports organization that provides outdoor equipment, classes and trips for students — the service is part of University President Mary Sue Coleman’s initiative to reduce the University's greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2025.

The University currently has 15 bikes available to rent per semester and an additional 15 to rent temporarily for days or weekends. Rentals cost $5 per day, $11 per weekend or $75 per semester, and borrowers are given a lock and a helmet with their rental.

Renters are responsible for replacement costs if equipment is stolen or broken, but general maintenance will be done free of charge, according to Dan Marshall, assistant director of Outdoor Adventures.

The program is a collaboration between the University’s Parking & Transportation Services, the Office of Campus Sustainability and the University Planner’s Office. Steve Dolen, the executive director of PTS, said the partnership between the departments and Rec Sports was critical to developing the program, noting that Rec Sports already had the infrastructure needed to lease the equipment.

According to Dolen, a majority of the funding came from Parking & Transportation Services, with additional funding coming from Rec Sports and the Office of Campus Sustainability.

Marshall said the program has been popular since its implementation, noting that the 15 rental bicycles available for the semester were rented in the first week they were available, and a waitlist has already opened for next semester. He added that the group already has plans to expand next fall.

The organizers of the program and members of the campus community have also expressed interest in expanding the initiative to a bike-sharing program, which would allow Ann Arbor residents and students to use bikes for short distance trips.

LSA senior Joseph Elliot, the founder and executive director of TruMich, a student advocacy group dedicated to sustainable transit, said a bike-share program would be better than the existing bike rental program because it would allow students easier accessibility.

“Bike rental is a long term usage, whereas bike sharing is from station to station,” Elliot said. “It’s for getting in between classes, or between North Campus and Main Street.”

Last year, TruMich started a petition and held forums designed to garner support for a bike-share program on campus. The proposed system would involve implementation of kiosks around campus that would grant short-term bike rental with use of a valid MCard.

Elliot told the Daily last February that a bike-share program is critical to aiding student transportation, and had been endorsed by the Central Student Government and LSA Student Government’s Taking Responsibility for the Earth and Environment subcommittee last winter semester.

“Bike-sharing could be the most accessible form of transit here,” Elliott told the Daily in February. “Even though Main Street is not that far away, it is still a hassle. The sharing system will enable students to explore the city and campus more.”

Bob Grese, a professor in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, agreed that expansion of the Blue Bikes program is necessary.

“I’m not sure it will reach its full potential unless it can expand a bit,” Grese said. “A bike-share program has more potential in the long run. Maybe a bike rental program is the first start.”

Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated President Coleman's goal for reducing campus emissions.


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