Bike Rental Program Finishes Successful First Semester
After a successful first semester, the Wesleyan Bike Rental Program (WesBikes) plans to increase the number of bikes in the program and bike racks around campus before beginning the second rental period next March. Student feedback to the program was very positive, with many students already thinking about renting again next semester.
“Almost all of the people who rented this semester said that they wanted to rent again next semester,” said Chi Le ’13, co-director of WesBikes. “One guy almost cried when he gave me back his bike. He said ‘This bike really changed my life.’”
Students who rented bikes were able to get around campus more easily and discover different areas around town.
“The program was enormously successful this year—all the people who rented the bikes returned them in good condition, and really enjoyed riding them,” wrote Charmaine Chen ’12, co-director of WesBikes, in an e-mail to The Argus. “I myself was a renter and really enjoyed being able to ride off campus and explore other parts of Middletown.”
Bike renters were given a three-speed bike, a helmet, a bike lock, and an air pump. Though the directors of the program had feared that some bikes would come back damaged or not at all, all 25 bikes were returned in good condition.
“The fact that there were no thefts or loss of bikes from our program indicates that students participating really took responsibility for these bikes and looked after them as if they were their own,” said Joe O’Donnell ’13, Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) Student Affairs Committee Chair. “Starting the program with 25 bikes and getting all 25 bikes back was a success in itself.”
Le believes the responsibility demonstrated by renters was also a result of strict policies requiring students to pay for any damage and to replace stolen bikes.
“I told people at the beginning of the semester that we would charge them for any damage done to the bike,” she said. “I also sent out reminders about bad weather or bringing bikes inside if I noticed they were outside for a while.”
To access student feedback for the program, Le, Chen, and O’Donnell created a survey for students asking what they thought of the program and whether they would be interested in renting again. Responses have been positive and have encouraged them to add more bikes.
“There was really enthusiastic support for expanding the program further in the spring so that more people can participate,” O’Donnell said. “By expanding the program by adding 20 or 25 more bikes, we’re hoping to accommodate more people, giving priority to those who expressed interest last time but weren’t selected.”
The money to fund new bikes will likely come from the Campus Initiative Fund.
The selection process for the first semester was competitive, with more than 50 students vying for 25 spots. When the program begins again after students return from spring break next March, the group hopes to have a new application process in place.
“We want to create a Google survey that takes into account a student’s class year and the distance they live from campus,” O’Donnell said. “And students that volunteer to help organize and run the program will also be guaranteed spots.”
The rental fee will be $20 next semester as opposed to $25 this semester, since it will run for a shorter period because of the cold weather. The group also plans to train some students in fixing simple bike problems.
“For next semester I asked people if they would be interested in learning how to fix bikes,” Le said. “If they volunteer to fix bikes then they can rent a bike for free, and there were a couple of students interested in doing this.”
The group has plans to launch a comprehensive website with all of the information on the program. They also hope to add more bike racks around campus to encourage bike use.
“We’re going to work with Physical Plant to add more bike racks to places that don’t have enough racks, like outside Usdan,” Le said.
O’Donnell believes that the program will become a self-sustaining part of the University.
“I’m hoping that as more people get involved and participate in WesBikes, that self-governing ethos will continue,” he said. “That will contribute to the continuity of the program over time.”