April 19, 2011

Bike Share Program Set to Begin

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Correction appended

The gears are finally clicking for Cornell Big Red Bikes, which recently announced it will roll out its new bike sharing program before the end of classes this semester.Twenty initial bicycles are en route to Ithaca and should arrive this week, according to Sarita Upadhyay ’11, co-president of Big Red Bikes.“We hope to get them up and running in the next week or two,” Upadhyay said.  Although there is still no official launch date, she said that the bike rental program will “most likely” be operating by Slope Day on May 6.After its launch, the program will allow Cornell undergraduate and graduate students to borrow bicycles for a short period of time. Akin to checking out a library book, students will be able to rent bicycles at the circulation desk in Uris Library. The program was initially slated to begin in the fall. Upadhyay attributed the program’s belated opening to “gaps in the system.”  Some of the logistical problems included the need for Cornell Risk Management to provide insurance and for librarians to ensure that the bicycles were properly returned, Upadhyay said. “It took a while to get through a lot of the administrative issues that came up,” she said.  The bike sharing pilot program will initially use the bicycle rack in front of Uris Library. Since the current free rack will be occupied by Big Red Bikes, the University may install additional bicycle racks for displaced cyclists near Uris and Olin Libraries, Upadhyay said.According to Martin Leung ’13, co-president of Big Red Bikes, the three-speed bicycles possess special qualities. “It’s supposed to be an easy to ride comfort bike — with a step-through frame and an upright posture similar to cruisers,” Leung said. By requiring that participants use their IDs to rent a bicycle, the program will have the ability to charge any theft or damage to students’ bursar accounts. “We’re going to have a system where people are held accountable for damage and for theft,” she added.Upadhyay said the bicycles would have Cornell decals and would be both conspicuous and noticeable, so as to avoid possible theft and vandalism. The group will also conduct routine maintenance of the bicycles, including a daily “quick check” and a weekly comprehensive inspection, according to Upadhyay. “We plan on giving them really regular maintenance,” she said.If the Big Red Bikes’ pilot program is successful, the group plans to expand to other parts of the campus, including a rental station in front of Mann library, Upadhyay said.Big Red Bikes plans to provide bicycles for rental for the remainder of this semester and most of the Fall 2011 semester. During the summer, Leung mentioned a pending proposal that will “caters to business conferences, academic meetings, and other summer visitors.”But during the winter, “we plan on taking the bikes out of commission” due to health and safety concerns, Upadhyay said.To fund Big Red Bikes, the Student Assembly distributes $1 to the program from each undergraduate’s $216 annual fee, according to Adam Nicoletti ‘12, vice president of finance on the Student Assembly. Between the bicycle purchases totaling $7,800, maintenance and bike stations, the initiative expects to spend nearly $13,500 this year.According to the Big Red Bikes’ Fall 2010 Budget Report, the bicycle check-out software will be different from the library’s system. Big Red Bikes will host a training session for the library staff this week “to tell them how to use the software and what to do in certain situations,” co-president Leung said. Other institutions host similar bicycle sharing initiatives, including the University of Chicago and the University of Boulder, Colorado.  Lois Chaplin, the University bicycle and pedestrian safety specialist, applauded the concept of Big Red Bikes. “Certainly the notion of having sustainable transportation on campus is a admirable goal,” Chaplin said.“The bike-sharing program benefits students and provides value to students.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Big Red Bikes is funded by the Student Assembly Finance Commission. In fact, it is funded by the Student Assembly.

Original Author: Max Schindler