Bike share program works through challenges, towards completion

Dylan Tull

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Current sophomores and Bike Share interns Andrew Patel and Sara Kleinkopf hope to make Whitman more accessible and make bicycling more convenient for both on- and off-campus students by completing a bike rental program that was started by the previous Bike Share interns last spring.

Credit: Charlie Li

While the rental program was anticipated to be in place by Fall 2011, Patel and Kleinkopf are working to overcome challenges that remain to be solved before the program can be set in place. Although it is hard for them to predict exactly, Patel and Kleinkopf anticipate that the bike rental program will be up and running in Spring 2011.

Logistical questions, such as where the bikes will come from, if they should be used or new, and what will happen if the bikes are broken, remain unanswered at this time. Buying new bikes from an online retailer is a possibility. The Bike Share interns are also looking into whether or not it makes sense to buy the bikes used from students, or even use abandoned bikes that have been collected. The idea of school-owned property being abused by careless students is also something that they must think through.

Campus Sustainability Coordinator senior Katie Radosevic describes the challenges the bike share interns face.

“It’s a really ambitious project, as it combines so many different entities on campus. It’s difficult to approach because theoretically it will be Whitman- or ASWC-owned property that will be rented out to students that may or may not care for the item like it’s their own,” she said.

Because so much time and research have been invested in the project, Radosevic has high hopes.

“The project is a big investment of money and energy, so we just need to make sure all of the ducks are in a row before we can bring a bike co-op to campus,” Radosevic said.

The program will be designed so that students will be able to check out a bike similarly to how they check out a book.   It sounds simple on the surface, but there is no doubt that it is a lofty goal; one swipe and then the students are handed a bike that is theirs for a certain period of time.

An incredible amount of planning must go in to make this transaction work smoothly. Patel and Kleinkopf hope to utilize the library checkout system to distribute the bikes.   According to Patel, the library has the infrastructure in place that the bike rental program needs to function.

The plan is to have five to ten bikes in place at the library that can be checked out just like books. Students will pay $10-20 at the beginning of the semester to become part of the program. Once students are registered under the program, they will be able to go to the library at any time during the day and check out a bike for a few hours and then return the bike.

The challenge now will be communicating with the library to set up a system that includes bikes. According to Kleinkopf, the library is enthusiastic about the plan.

In the event that the library check-out system doesn’t end up working, Patel and Kleinkopf will have to turn to another organization to distribute the bikes.   Both interns have collaborated to study other college bike share programs to better understand how an ideal system will work.

“I have been in contact with Occidental [College] and their library, to see what their role in the program is. So hopefully we can implement the same program,” Kleinkopf said.

Despite all of these issues that must be dealt with, the plan is solid and well grounded.

“Time will tell when the bikes will be here, but I think our goal would be by the end of our school year,” Patel said. “Plenty of things get in the way; there are so many small factors that can affect this.”

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