Campus transportation may soon become more accessible and environmentally friendly with the introduction of a new bike-sharing program awaiting approval from the University.
TruMich, a student organization focused on alternative and mass transit on campus, is working to promote and coordinate with the University bike-sharing program. The initiative would allow students to take a bike from a kiosk with the swipe of an MCard and deposit it at any of several other kiosks on campus.
While the bike share program is still in its beginning stages, LSA junior Joseph Elliott, president of TruMich, said its increasing potential is limitless and and the group has high levels of student support.
“Bike-sharing could be the most accessible form of transit here,” Elliott said. “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.”
The group started a petition to get approval for the bike-sharing program in the fall, and it has now reached about 1,250 signatures. In addition, both Central Student Government and LSA Student Government’s Taking Responsibility for the Earth and Environment subcommittee have recently endorsed the program.
“We increased our campaign efforts and we have expanded like crazy,” Elliott said. “In the past two days alone, we got over 400 signatures. We were just getting our feet wet in the fall but now we have a lot of student support.”
Elliott said the process of setting up the program is difficult and requires continued support and collaboration from students, University administrators and city officials.
“We have talked to administrators and they have been helpful and insightful but they are not sure if the University has the money or the critical mass at the moment,” Elliott said.
Stephen Dolen, executive director of the University’s Parking and Transportation Services, said the University has been working with the city to make infrastructure more bike-friendly.
“A lot of the roads bikers use are major city roads so we are working together with the city on that,” Dolen said. “We are collaborating with city on the non-motorized plan.”
While developing the program, Elliott and Dolen have extensively researched other communities with successful bike share programs.
Dolen said he is following plans similar to those established in Denver and Boulder, Colo. and colleges such as the University of California Davis and Washington State University.
Elliott said he worries that the University may try to use a bike rental system in place of bike sharing, a mistake made by Washington, D.C.’s SmartBike system.
“A bike share will be more readily used,” Elliott said. “If you rent a bike you need to return it to the (Sports and Recreation Center) and on top of that you need to pay a small fee. For a bike share program there are multiple places to return the bike and it would increase mobilization throughout campus.”
LSA senior Matt Lonnerstater wrote in an e-mail interview that he thinks students would benefit from a bike share program, but that pressing infrastructure issues should be resolved before the program is instated.
“If a bike-sharing program were to be introduced in Ann Arbor today given its current bike infrastructure, the program would go down in flames,” Lonnerstater wrote. “Much like an incomplete game of connect the dots, Ann Arbor bike rental stations would serve no feasible purpose without an organized system of bike lanes and paths to get from one station to another.”
Lonnerstater wrote that the establishment of a better transportation system for bikers is critical before a bike sharing system can successfully be implemented. This concern was echoed by other students at a forum last week hosted by the Office of Campus Sustainability and PTS. Students said biking, especially to North Campus, was unsafe.
School of Information graduate student Shiblee Hasan said he would use the bikes to get to class and around campus.
“I would use it a lot,” Hasan said. “I have to jump around a lot of buildings and I think it would help me get places faster.”
LSA freshman Damie Pak agreed with Hasan and said she is looking forward to the sharing system, as she commutes home by bike.
“I have a bike but I leave it home for the winter,” Pak said. “But if there was a bike sharing program I would definitely use it. It’s healthy and I like doing it. And with the shared bikes it would be more convenient because I can leave it anywhere.”
At the bike forum last Monday, students voiced concerns regarding a lack of enclosed spaces and parking availability.
However, Elliott said bike-sharing works due to its simplicity, adding that finding parking and worrying about maintaining the bike is not the student’s responsibility.
“A lot of students have bikes, but are not able to bring them from home, or choose not to because there are not enough bike racks or they are afraid their bikes will get stolen,” Elliott said. “So this just allows them to have an easy source.”