Students’ mobility around campus may get a boost next fall thanks to a joint effort by the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA), Environmental Organizers Network (EON), and Legs Energize Get It Together (LEGIT), a student bike-repair group. The groups have collaborated on the creation of a Bike Co-op that will provide bikes for students to rent for a semester, ideally starting next fall.
“[The rental program] gives people who live far away from Wesleyan a good opportunity to have a low-cost, well-maintained bike which is something they don’t have to worry about after school or at the end of every semester,” said LEGIT member Angus McCullough ’10. “It’s a step toward a more bike-friendly campus.”
According to the WSA mid-year survey this year, 94 percent of student respondents supported the idea of creating a Bike Co-op program, according to WSA and EON member Joe O’Donnell ’13.
The pilot program for the Bike Co-op will begin with 20 to 25 bikes, according to O’Donnell, who is leading the planning stages of the initiative. Students will be able to rent bikes, along with helmets and locks, for a fee of approximately $20 or $25 per semester. Students will then be responsible for taking care of their bikes over that period.
“We think that there are plenty other people who don’t see a reason to transport their bike from home to here or buy a bike solely for the purpose of riding at Wesleyan that will decide to participate in this program,” O’Donnell said.
According to O’Donnell, the program will require a start-up cost of between $7,500 and $10,000 to purchase bikes, locks, and helmets. Funding will likely come from the Student Activities Fee, if approved by the Student Budget Committee. According to Fran Koerting, Director of Residential Life (ResLife), ResLife may contribute some funds toward the program. After the initial start-up costs, the program should become self-sustaining through rental fees and contracts that require students to pay for rented bikes if they are lost.
O’Donnell had previously looked into collecting used bikes from Public Safety or the Middletown Police Department, but found that repair and time costs created too many obstacles for the plan to work.
“We’re going to look into and explore any price or cost-cutting measure we possibly can,” he said.
In consultation with LEGIT, O’Donnell is looking into purchasing a fleet of internal three-speed bikes, which would be sturdy, reliable, and require relatively little maintenance.
The Co-op will collaborate with LEGIT by providing free repair of Co-op bikes. Once the program gets started, the Co-op may train participants on how to perform minor bike repair, inflate tires, and take care of other bike maintenance issues.
The program would differ from rental programs existing at other schools that are based on short-term bike rental, where students use swipe a card to pay for bike use.
Due to the large costs of this type of higher-tech rental program, O’Donnell believes that a semester-long rental program is a better option for the University, at least initially.
“We’re going to be examining as the program goes along the sustainability benefits, how to make it more widely available or known to students on campus and promote the sustainability and healthful lifestyle aspect of it,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell has discussed issues like bike storage and security with administrative representatives from Physical Plant, Public Safety, and Residential Life.
He will also be meeting with David Winakor, General Counsel for the University, to discuss liability issues for injury or damage-related to rented bikes and to develop a contract for students to sign when they rent a bike.
“At this point we’ve essentially gotten all of the main players on board—students and administrators,” O’Donnell said. “Everybody is behind the idea.”