By Allana Akhtar, Summer News Editor
Published May 14, 2014
Cyclists, grab a helmet.
By July, University students will have access to public bikes in an effort to add cycling to daily commutes.
ArborBike, in partnership with the Ann Arbor City Council, the Ann Arbor-based nonprofit Clean Energy Coalition and the University are in the final stages of initiating the citywide bike share program.
In the latest step toward launching the program, the organization has launched a map of the 14 future kiosk stations where riders can rent a bicycle.
A few are near University academic buildings, including one on State Street by the Modern Languages Building, one on South University by the School of Social Work and one on East Madison Street near the Michigan Union.
There are also stations close to popular downtown areas. Kiosks near the Main Street hub include a station on the intersection of Main Street and Washington Street near Café Zola and a station on East Huron Street by the Ann Arbor City Council building. There is another kiosk planned for Fifth Avenue close to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Kerrytown.
The Medical Center and Michigan Stadium will have stations nearby. North Campus will also have kiosks on Hubbard Road and near the Cooley Laboratory.
ArborBike operations manager Nick Helmholdt said he believes this program is well suited for a college town like Ann Arbor because students can benefit from access to alternative methods of transportation when it's not feasible to keep a car on campus.
Similar programs have already been implemented at the University of Colordo-Boulder, as well as in several major cities such as Chicago and New York City.
He added that the bike share program can be preferable to owning a bike because it negates issues such as storage and maintenance, which can be inconvenient for students, yet allows for the convenience of use based on their needs in the short or long term.
Lisa Solomon, business analyst for University Parking and Transportation Services, said the program is designed for small commutes in the downtown Ann Arbor area and around the University’s campus. She stressed that the program is not ideal for long, trans-city trips, but would aid people who were looking to get to nearby destinations faster or finish up the last leg of a bus journey.
“It offers an alternative for getting around,” Solomon said. “People wouldn’t use their car, for example, if they needed to run out for lunch.”
Interested users have the choice of buying membership cards of one day for $6, one week for $20 or one year for $65. Members then have access to the public bikes around the city for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. Bikers face fees if they return bikes after one hour of use to help keep as many bikes in circulation as possible.
The bikes come with a small basket, front and rear lights and a chain lock. ArborBike said they would fund and facilitate all bike repairs.
Bike-sharing businesses have opened with success across the nation, in areas such as Washington D.C., Portland, Oregon and in the Manhattan and Brooklyn boroughs of New York City.
In 2011, University President Mary Sue Coleman gave a speech to students on improving sustainability through University funded transportation and emission reduction projects. She specifically suggested a bike sharing system around campus to decrease dependence on gas-powered vehicles.
The University supported ArborBike through the process and donated $600,000 toward operational costs. The Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority and the Clean Energy Coalition assisted with start-up funding as well.
Solomon sees great potential in the enterprise, especially because of the environmental and wellness benefits that could result.
“It will enable students, faculty and staff access to downtown and campus,” Solomon said. “You can run around easily without fighting for a parking spot.”