According to the Department of Transportation, 4 billion biking trips were made in 2009. That's a rise of 2.3 billion foot-powered travels since 1990. This increase in biking is understandable: bikes are a safe, healthy, sustainable, and fun mode of transportation. Biking is also the most practical and efficient method of travel for university students, which is why 90 universities across the country have founded their own campus-wide bike share programs ( USA TODAY).
These programs operate in a number of different ways, each as unique as the campuses themselves. New York University , for example, launched a fleet of lightweight, single speed, Biria cruiser bikes through their student-run, NYU Bike Share system in summer 2010. These bikes are available to students and faculty to borrow at no cost, with presentation of their ID cards, from five different campus locations. Since the campus is spread all over the city, one of the goals of the Bike Share system is to make it so students aren't so reliant on the NYU bus network.
Meanwhile, Washington State University is the first university in the nation to implement an automated bike share program. Through WSU's Wellbeing Green Bike program, a student can rent one of the thirty-two new Bixi bikes from an automated, solar-powered check-out station for 24 hours and return it to any of the three docking stations around campus. A project developed and funded entirely by students, the Wellbeing Green Bike program provided 12,000 miles of environmentally-sustainable travel in its first year. WSU shares NYU's goal of promoting bike culture both on campus and in the community, and seeks to introduce biking as an alternative mode of transportation to newcomers.
Another student-run, non-profit organization is UC Berkeley Green Bike Share, which offers bikes to students and the community for a dollar a day. The program is currently operating on grant money won in a campus-wide contest for improving student life. Green Bike Share is seeking funding from local businesses and city and university grants so it can continue to increase environmental, social, and economic sustainability through biking. In an article for The Daily Californian , one of the program's directors said Green Bike Share's philosophy is to promote the use of bicycles, even if riders don't use their program; it's about getting people on bikes, period.
These bike share programs, in addition to the other 87 in the country, have made great strides towards encouraging environmentally responsible travel among university campuses and their city communities. Still, only 2.5 percent of all six hundred thousand students who live within two miles of their respective schools arrive at class via bicycle. If those six hundred thousand students did ride their bikes instead of taking a bus or car, they would save nearly one hundred thousand gallons of gasoline each day ( The Green Book ).
HOW TO ENCOURAGE UNIVERSITY BIKE SHARE PROGRAMS
Here are some things you can do to inspire the other seven thousand colleges and universities in the country to start their own bike share programs:
- Suggest your local college or university start a bike share program; you don't have to be a student or staff member.
- Many bike share programs operate by lending used, refurbished bikes to students. If you have a bike you aren't using, try contacting your university to find out if they would like your donation.
- Contact your university to make a monetary donation to their bike share program.
- If you're handy with an Allen wrench and have some free time, bike share programs are always in need of volunteers to keep the bikes in good working order.
- Volunteer at one of your university's bike share outreach events; even if it's just handing out fliers or manning a booth at the fair, you'll be spreading the word and getting people on bikes.
- Visit peopleforbikes.org and sign their pledge.
(Photo by PBSC Urban Solutions)