University and Ann Arbor plan new bike-share program

By Ariana Assaf, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 11, 2013

The University is teaming up with Ann Arbor’s Clean Energy Coalition to bring a simplified bike-share program to campus and downtown Ann Arbor, beginning the second phase of a push for bike transit.

The CEC is a non-profit organization that works with a number of partners, including the University and the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority to focus on decreasing fossil fuel emissions and promoting the use of clean energy.

The idea for the bike-sharing program began with University President Mary Sue Coleman’s sustainability address last year. In her remarks, she touched on her wish to bring a bike-sharing program to Ann Arbor similar to the ones that had been successful on other university campuses. Students have advocated for the program in recent years as well.

Stephen Dolen, the executive director of Parking and Transportation Services, formed a partnership with the CEC, the Downtown Development Authority and the AATA to launch the program. Dolan said while the groups have all committed to working on the project, some technical aspects are still being negotiated.

The original plan was to have the program up and running for next fall semester but funding issues may delay the launch.

“Bringing three entities of the city together on elements like funding is a challenge,” Dolen said. “Right now we’re in this situation of having to figure out how to work with local partners to come up with funding for grants.”

The CEC has taken the lead on the project, securing a $700,000 grant from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. Dolen said the University also plans to support operating funds in the first three years of the program.

In September, the University began the first phase of bike transit, introducing a bike rental program run through Outdoor Adventures — which is part of the University's Recreational Sports office. With the Blue Bikes program, students and faculty have the opportunity to rent bikes by day, week or semester.

During the fall semester, Blue Bikes rented out 100 bikes, according to Rec Sports.

"We believe it is a great first semester for the program," said Dan Marshall, an assistant campus recreation director.

The new bike-sharing plan targets students as well as Ann Arbor residents. It ultimately aims to have multiple pick-up and drop-off locations for bikes around Ann Arbor and campus.

Jim Kosteva, the University’s director of community relations, said the bike-sharing program would help transportation options for residents in the community.

“We support and encourage transport connections to business and the downtown community … this program is one means through which that can be accomplished.”