Starting this year, it will be much easier for University of Georgia students to get around on two wheels.
A commercial bike share program is coming to campus, thanks to a partnership between the UGA Office of Sustainability and a soon-be-determined bicycle vendor.
Student hubs such as student housing, libraries, parking lots and academic buildings will host bicycle stations with a uniform set of bikes for rent.
The UGA Bike Share Selection Committee is made up of representatives from UGA and Athens organizations. The committee will help choose the right vendor for the program and began discussions at the beginning of the month.
The committee is taking into account the cost of the bikes as well as comfort of the ride. They expect to make a decision on the direction of the program in the coming month.
The committee members anticipate that new bicycles, ready to rent, will arrive on campus as early as this spring.
In addition to reducing traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, the bike share program will help with another problem — abandoned bikes on campus.
“Students come first year with a bike and leave them, and it clogs up the bike racks,” said Jason Perry, program coordinator at the Office of Sustainability.
If students are deciding whether or not to purchase a bicycle, the new program will offer them an avenue to practice cycling first.
“[Students can] check one out, give it a shot and maybe go to a local bike shop and buy their own bike,” said Kevin Kirsche, director of the Office of Sustainability.
Perry and Kirsche maintain the fee to rent a bicycle will be more affordable than the cost of purchasing a new bike and keeping up with routine repairs.
They hope for there to be different time frames for rental options.
“The goal is to keep the cost very reasonable,” Perry said. “We think having a cost makes people value the system, and it helps with the circulation of the bikes.”
To start out, there will be multiple stations installed on campus, to be determined once a vendor is chosen. If the program is a success, it is possible more docking stations may pop up in Athens areas such as Five Points, Normaltown and downtown.
“We’re hopeful that people will enjoy it, and that there will be a demand in the future,” Kirsche said.
While Perry and Kirsche don’t anticipate requiring all bicycle renters to wear helmets, they will be available if the renters wish to use one.
The new bike share program is seen as an expansion of the current, free-of-charge program, Bulldog Bikes, which allows UGA students or employees to rent bikes outside the Main Library, the Carnegie Library or the Science Library on campus.
Unlike Bulldog Bikes, anyone will be able to rent bicycles from the new program, and the vendor will take care of vehicle upkeep, allowing more docking stations to be installed in a diversity of locations.
“[The bikes] will always be ready, always be maintained and you won’t have to worry about it,” Perry said.
Renters will have the option of completing transactions through an app, and the locations of vehicles will be mapped using a GPS tracking technology.
Kirsche and Perry predict the data generated from the influx of bicycles on campus will open doors for a research projects in fields such as landscape architecture or geography.
Written by: Nicole Schlabach