This summer, Stony Brook University will be ditching the old bike share bicycles for a set of new wheels. Transportation and Parking Services is teaming up with Environmental Stewardship to bring the BIXI bike share program to the university by mid- to late summer.
The university plans on releasing a small-scale version of the bike share system already in effect in major cities around the world including London, Boston, Toronto and Melbourne. Stony Brook will be the third university in the nation, behind Washington State University and Harvard University, to bring the BIXI bike system to students.
“We looked at a lot of other municipalities as well as universities and we benchmarked what was out there, what are the best practices going on,” said James O’Connor, the Director of Sustainability and Transportation Operations. “We found out that a lot of them are implementing a higher quality bike and a brand name bike.”
The initial bike share pilot program was announced at Earthstock 2011 and implemented during the following summer. The first 25 students chosen by lottery were given a bike for the entire semester after having to pay a $15 participation fee and another $15 lock, key and helmet rental fee. Not only did students have to worry about paying the fees but they also had to travel back and forth from the Campus Operations & Maintenance building to the bursar’s office in order to get all the paperwork managed. This system made the program difficult for many students to understand and decreased desire for participation.
“From there we took a lot of good information and deliverables about what we can do in order to grow the bike share program,” said O’Connor. “We’re also increasing our marketing and our outreach efforts in order to communicate how to participate in the bike share program.”
Aside from the lack of accessibility to the system, O’Connor and James Ambriose, the Parking Operations Manager and project manager on the bike share program, also received feedback from students claiming the bikes could be more appealing and nicer. Not only are the bikes ugly according to some students, but they have also started to build up some wear from the year they have been in use.
Instead of improving on the current bike share program at the university, O’Connor and Ambroise decided to try something entirely new, a true bike share in the image of some of the more successful programs worldwide. In keeping with the Stony Brook tradition of “going green,” the new bikes will be stationed at solar-powered kiosks where students will be able to swipe their identification cards and take a bike. That student will then have 24 hours to ride the bike wherever before having to return it to another kiosk where their name will be cleared.
The plan is set to roll out in phases, with the first starting this summer. Phase one entails setting up one kiosk at the Student Activities Center and one in West Apartments, near building D, stationing 25 bikes total. Phase two, which will take effect the following summer, will add a kiosk at South P lot as well as additional kiosks at the Student Activities Center adding 25 more bikes to the program. In later phases of the plan, kiosks will be installed throughout the campus at locations including the railroad station, Chapin Apartments and the Medical Center.
“What we really plan to do is roll this out campus-wide over a number of years,” said O’Connor. “We think it’s going to be at least a five year plan for a comprehensive, really aggressive bike share program to be in all of the locations that we would like to have them in.”
One challenge facing the new initiative would be how to include faculty and staff in the operation. The university plans to include the bike share fee under the transportation fee all students must pay, just as SUNY Buffalo has done. The only problem with that is faculty and staff do not pay for this fee and an alternative form of payment would need to be established.
“We’re trying to get their system to communicate with our ID system so this way students can just come in and swipe their card and it could distinguish between an employee and a student,” said Ambroise.
The point of the new bike system is to provide students with an easy and accessible alternative to taking the bus or using a car. This sustainable solution will not only give students another means of transportation outside of buses, but it will also help Stony Brook reduce its carbon footprint one bike ride at a time.
“Our intentions are instead of adding more buses to routes, and congestion, traffic and fuel consumption, students would eventually be enticed to grab one of our bikes,” said O’Connor. “Grab it, use it, go wherever they need to go, and get rid of it.”
O’Connor and Ambroise hope that the bike share program to be released in New York City this summer through the Public Bike System Company, the same one Stony Brook will be using, will encourage students to become more interested and participate.
“We think it’s going to be a huge hit because at the end of the day it’s all about accessibility,” said O’Connor. “It’s a really cool, green technology.”
“It’s a true bike share program,” said Ambroise.