Ohio State’s bike-sharing initiative is rolling out this semester with 115 rentable bikes available at 15 stations across campus. A Share the Road event is scheduled for next week to inform students, faculty and staff about the system.
Share the Road is an educational initiative that aims to “promote safe behaviors among students, faculty, staff and visitors moving around campus,” according to the Share the Road website. This year, the initiative’s annual event has been designed to coincide with the launch of OSU’s bike-share program in the hopes of promoting safe cycling habits, said Dan Hedman, an Administration and Planning spokesman.
“This year, since logically, there will potentially be more bike traffic with 115 bikes on campus through this Ohio State bike share, we thought it would be a really good tie-in to do our bike-share event tied together with some sort of unveil of the program,” Hedman said, adding that, while details are not finalized, the event is currently scheduled to take place on Sept. 2 in the afternoon.
The university’s bike-share bikes are provided by Zagster, a Massachusetts-based company that is looking to get the OSU community comfortable on two (and sometimes three) wheels. Zagster was one of five bike-sharing companies whose bids were examined by the university in March.
OSU announced its intention to create a bike-sharing program, a joint initiative between the university and Undergraduate Student Government, in January as a response to students’ expressed desire to have a bike-sharing option on campus, Hedman said.
“Students really wanted this on campus, so I think it is responding to something they have asked for and it is a sustainable, long-term healthy solution to get around campus,” he said. “It is just another tool in the toolbox to get around campus and see what’s out there.”
Students are able to purchase a year-long pass for $35, and faculty and staff can purchase annual passes for $55. Members of the public who are not associated with OSU can purchase a yearly pass for $75. Daily passes, good for 24-hour access to the bikes, are available for a $6 one-time fee per day, according to the Zagster website.
Trips under one hour are free for annual pass holders, as well as day pass holders, during weekdays. Riders have an unlimited number of one-hour rides per day. Additional hours of riding time over the one-hour limit result in a charge of $3 per hour, with a maximum of $24 a ride, the website states.
On weekends, the check out time for bikes is extended to three hours, which allows for students to use the bikes to travel off-campus, said Jennifer Evans-Cowley, the vice provost for capital planning and regional campuses.
“A student or anybody in our campus community can check out a bike and then they can take it anywhere that they’d like to go,” she said. “I think for students, particularly those who are living on campus, this is a great opportunity to go explore the city on the weekends. It is just a healthy, active way to be able to explore the city, as well as to explore the campus.”
Individuals interested in using the bikes can sign up for a membership on the Zagster website, and are also encouraged to download the Zagster app, which allows them to check the bikes out. Payment options include BuckID and credit card, Evans-Cowley said.
Zagster is set to provide a variety of bicycles for use by the OSU community. They include trikes, hand cycles, tandem, heavy duty and three-wheeled cargo bicycles, which can be used to transport heavier loads. Evans-Cowley said riders can see which bikes are available at each location on the app.
Evans-Cowley added that OSU has received a grant from the Ohio Department of Transportation that will provide the university with funding for helmets, which will be available at the Sept. 2 event for free for individuals signed up for a Zagster membership.
“The hope is that we will be able to encourage people to keep a helmet in their residence hall or to keep it in their office so that when they are casually going for a ride, they know ‘I’m going to grab my helmet and go take the bike share,’” she said.
Tim Ericson, Zagster CEO and co-founder, said representatives from the company will attend the Sept. 2 event to answer questions regarding the bikes.
“We will have several team members there for both the press conference as well as various information tables,” Ericson said in an email. “Representatives will be on site to answer questions, show how the technology works and sign students and faculty up for the program.”
Chris Leight, a third-year in computer science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering, said he thinks using the bike share would take some of the worry away from having to take care of his own bike on campus.
“The issue with me having a bike here is the idea that it has to be stored somewhere and the potential of it being stolen … it is just another liability to have it here,” he said.
But, Leight added, he worries that the Zagster system’s one-hour time limit for weekdays might not be applicable to most students’ class schedules.
“I definitely see issues,” he said. “Classes aren’t always one hour. If you go to (a class that’s over one hour), you will have to return your bike in the middle of class.”
Luv Jain, a third-year in computer science and engineering, said he also is worried about timing, as this was a concern he had when considering car rental programs.
“That was kind of my concern with the Car2Go because I saw people rushing to get it back in time and I didn’t really like that idea,” he said. “So if there were extended hours on the bikes so you had more room to actually complete your class and return it, then it would be a lot better.”
As the first year of the bike-sharing system gets underway, Evans-Cowley said OSU plans to monitor the community’s reactions to the bikes, and will make future decisions based on these interactions.
“What we will be doing is we will be seeing how much people are using the bikes and the bike-share system and as we see the demand, we will be assessing whether or not we need to be adding more bikes to the system or more bike-sharing stations,” she said. “We will just expect to keep growing the program based on how much our students, faculty and staff are using them.”
August 26, 2015
This story has been updated to clarify the fact that individuals with the annual Zagster membership, as well as the daily pass, have the ability to check out bikes for an unlimited number of one-hour rides on weekdays, and an unlimited number of three-hour rides on weekends.
August 27, 2015
A quote in this story implies that there is a time limit set on Car2Go vehicles. In fact, there is no time limit. Instead, members who use Car2Go are billed by the minute, and per-hour and per-day rates are also available.