On April 19, the Student Budget Committee (SBC) of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) approved an $8,927.20 funding request for the new Wesleyan Bike Rental Program (WesBikes), which will allow students to rent bikes, along with helmets and u-locks, for a $25 rental fee per eight-week period starting next fall.

The program, which was proposed in order to provide bikes to students who wouldn’t normally be able to afford to buy or ship one to campus, will get underway with 25 new Felt “Café 3” bikes of varying sizes. According to WSA representative Joe O’Donnell ’13, who spearheaded the rental program, the bikes, which usually retail for about $400, will be purchased at a 20 percent discount from Pedal Power, a bicycle shop on Main Street in Middletown.

“Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be spreading the word about the program and trying to get as many people who are interested in participating or helping out involved,” O’Donnell said.

Students who sign up for the program will pick up their bikes from the Physical Plant building at Long Lane Farm at the beginning of each rental period. The bikes will be theirs to use until the end of each semester, when they will be returned and inspected for damages.

The program will be closed from late December to late March, in order to minimize maintenance and safety concerns related to bike use during the winter.

If demand for bikes exceeds the quantity of bikes available, student names will be chosen randomly. Students who are not selected to rent bikes will be able to join a waiting list for priority consideration the following semester. If there is high demand, WesBikes may consider expanding its bicycle fleet, possibly through additional funding from the SBC or the new Green Fund.

A WesBikes Oversight Committee will be formed to monitor the logistics of the program. The committee will include a student director position, as well as representatives from the WSA, the Environmental Organizers Network (EON), Legs Energize Get It Together (LEGIT), Physical Plant, and Public Safety.

“We’re hoping that people are enthusiastic enough about the idea that they’ll come to the monthly or bi-monthly meetings and help out with providing new ideas for the program, considering areas of expansion, and making sure that logistically and organizationally it’s working well,” O’Donnell said.

The program is designed to be self-sustaining via the $625 in total rental fees each semester, which will cover bike maintenance costs. The bikes have three speeds and internal gearing, which reduce the likelihood of damage, according to Rishabh Phukan ’10, Co-Head of LEGIT, a student-run bike-repair group.

If bikes are lost or stolen, students will be charged for the cost of the bike. WesBikes will distribute information about purchasing insurance, but O’Donnell does not expect that bike theft will be a major problem as long as students make sure to lock their bikes.

“Especially because these bikes aren’t ostentatious or flashy, I can’t see any reason why a bike thief in Middletown would choose to target any of these bikes to steal or go through the hassle of breaking a u-lock as opposed to cutting someone else’s cable lock,” he said.

In addition to bikes, helmets, and locks, WesBikes will also provide five tire pumps, which will be located at the Usdan information center. Any student will be able to borrow a pump temporarily.

Students interested in participating in the bike rental program can e-mail Joe O’Donnell at jodonnell@wesleyan.edu.

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