Stony Brook University has successfully implemented its first “Bike Share” program, mimicking the communal bike usage seen in many major cities and colleges around the world.
The Stony Brook University Bike Share program, initiated by the Environmental Stewardship Office, got rolling over the summer sessions with 18 students using the 25 university-owned bikes located around campus.
By paying an initial fee of $30 for the semester and $15 for a helmet and lock, students could be assigned a bike and use it for any purpose, even cycling off Stony Brook University grounds.
The premise of the program, according to the Stony Brook University Sustainability website, is to provide students with a means of transportation, a way to keep active and a substitution for automobiles – collectively reducing the school’s carbon footprint.
After a trial run during Stony Brook’s summer session, the resulting feedback pushed the Environmental Stewardship Office to make a few major changes to the program.
“We received very helpful suggestions from students over the summer,” said Amy Provanzano, the executive director of the Environmental Stewardship Office. “One of the biggest issues was that some students felt guilty for taking any of the bikes. They felt like they would be taking a bike from someone who needed it.”
To combat this, the Stewardship Office has decided to stop “sharing” the bikes, as they had during the summer, and instead assign a bike to every student, which they will be responsible for throughout the semester.
Though the program is new and changing, Provanzano says students already love it. “We’ve had around 100 students express interest in renting one of the 25 bikes.
The Stewardship Office used a lottery to determine which students would be entered into the program.
Twenty-five bikes is barely a blip in comparison to the roughly 22,500 students enrolled at Stony Brook, but the initiative is set to expand.
“We’re looking to install another 25 to 30 bikes by next spring,” Provanzano said, but she also mentioned that the more bikes that are offered, the harder it is to store them. Consequently, more money would be required.
Ideas had been circulating amongst the Bike Sharing Committee about installing the far more convenient method of bike sharing called “B-Cycle,” as seen in large cities like Chicago, Denver and Boulder.
“B-Cycle” allows users to swipe their card at one of the many kiosks dotted throughout the city, or campus as the case may be, which in turn releases one of the bikes. The users can then bike around the city and return the bike to any one of the other kiosks.
Though “B-Cycle” may be more convenient, it’s also significantly more expensive. The initial membership fee for students in Chicago, for instance is $25, and then, on top of this, there is a fee of $20 a day for four or more hours. According to Provanzano, this is just too expensive for both the students and the Stewardship Office.
When questioned as to how the Environmental Stewardship Office will be repaid if a member steals a bike, Provanzano said that they are relying on the basic tenet of goodwill, and they are “really hoping that that won’t be an issue.”
Students are required to sign a waiver that holds them accountable for the bike if it is in any way tampered with.
But if the bike does require work or replacement due to deliberate negligence there will be no academic penalty incurred because the program is not associated with Solar.