The University is currently in the process of implementing a bicycle rental program that aims to promote an alternative way of commuting to and from campus. The system, advocated by Parking and Transportation Services and administered by RecSports, will have bicycles for rental at two locations — one on North Campus and one on Central Campus — and will have rent on a daily or weekend basis for $5 or $10 respectively. There will also be the option of renting a few bikes on a semester basis.
Even though this system is commendable, a better idea would be to implement a bicycle-sharing program on campus, which would essentially consist of several bicycle docks around campus. The user can check out a bicycle at any dock, pay the necessary amount for usage according to the amount time the bike is used and return the bike at any dock. The benefit of this option as compared to the rental option is that the user does not have to pay a flat fee, since usage fees are determined solely based on length of time used. In addition, the existence of bikes in several locations on campus versus only two locations means greater convenience and flexibility.
Bicycle-sharing programs already exist at some universities, including Tufts University and Washington State University. The University of Michigan has yet to implement a similar program largely due to financial constraints. The vast campus area would mean the construction of several docking stations at suitable intervals to serve the large campus community, and it might be difficult to generate revenue in a suitable period of time. Government funding is usually available for such programs, so this could be one possible option to mitigate the cost of implementation. Levying an initial high cost on usage with lower costs for subsequent hours might help keep the system running, albeit at the risk of student opposition. The entire campus community would benefit with the introduction of such a system. Not only is it emissions-free, it also provides a fun, healthy way to get around campus.