This May, the University and the city of Ann Arbor will implement ArborBike, a bike-sharing program that allows members to pick up and use bikes from kiosks around the city for a low fee. This collaboration between the city and the University’s Parking @ Transportation Services will establish bike kiosks throughout campus in several areas, including: Main Street, State Street, South University, North Campus and Central Campus. ArborBike will make transportation more convenient for students and Ann Arbor residents and help preserve the environment by reducing the need to drive. The University should implement the program, and if successful, help expand it to the entire city.
ArborBike will make transportation available at more locations and more times, giving students easier access to areas that are not served by Blue Buses. Students will also not be bound by inconvenient bus schedules. Easy and inexpensive access to bikes will allow students to easily travel to and from important locations around Ann Arbor. In addition, being part of a bike-sharing program could be more convenient and affordable than bike ownership for students. The program may save students money, as they wouldn’t have to buy a bike, pay for upkeep or worry about theft. In 2012, more than 90 bikes were reported stolen, but this program will relieve participants of the worry of being the next victim. To maximize benefits for students and make sure the program is accessible for all, the University should further ensure that B-Cycle, the program provider, keeps membership rates low.
Additionally, there are several environmental benefits of the program. According to B-Cycle’s interactive website, it is projected that if only two bike kiosks were set up at the University, the program would reduce six tons of carbon emissions and save 616 gallons of gas. It is also estimated that it would help reduce traffic by 415 cars, improving the downtown environment by alleviating congestion. The University plans to install 14 kiosks so these effects are projected to be even greater. If the entire city of Ann Arbor eventually incorporates bike stations, the effects can be amplified to reduce 219 tons of carbon output and traffic by 15,193 cars. In 2011, Coleman detailed her environmental sustainability initiative, of which this is an important component. According to Coleman, all of the University’s planned environmental programs combined will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent and decrease vehicle carbon output 30 percent by the year 2025.
However, as the University prepares to implement a program to increases bike ridership, it must call upon B-Cycle to provide helmets to users. Helmets tend to be expensive, so casual bike riders, especially students, may not purchase them on their own to wear when riding ArborBike bikes. However, helmets are necessary to protect students. Providing helmets as part of the bike-sharing program can help incentivize students to wear them. It is also important for ArborBike to create a way to ensure the cleanliness of the helmets.
The implementation of ArborBike will help students get around our increasingly, spread-out campus. The University should implement the program in earnest — and barring any major difficulties — expand it to include more areas of the city.