Bike it or Hike it

Rideshare is a convenient, greener option for commuters, but what about those of us who still live on campus? Parking permits are pricey, and don’t forget to add the cost of out-of-state insurance along with normal expenses such as gas and maintenance. Not to forget to mention that parking spaces themselves are few and hard to come by.  UD’s campus is just big enough that walking to class can be an inconvenience, taking anywhere from 10 to 35 minutes. On the other hand, it is just small enough that driving and putting up with Newark traffic and possibly having to pay for meter parking is a nuisance. The University offers a bus service, but this route can become inefficient time wise; the North-South express runs the most frequently, but during peak times you may to wait another 10 minutes for the next bus because the first one was at full capacity. Many of the other buses run less regularly and walking ends up being quicker, albeit more exhausting and still time consuming.  Want to go somewhere off campus? Have fun begging for rides from other busy students. The odds of the stars aligning so that someone can whisk you away are slim at best.


Biking provides a happy medium; it is less expensive than cars and parking and can slice your commute time to class in half. Yet owning a bike can be a bit of a hassle. You’re responsible for keeping those tires filled with air, the well oiled, and somehow protecting it from the elements, (namely all the snow we have been getting this winter) which sometimes means lugging it inside and storing it in your tiny dorm room. You also have to prevent it from theft and from the drunken assholes who seem to delight in kicking in your wheels.


Here are some shots of vandalized and abused bikes around campus:

(The clip is from the UD Biweekly Show, a comedy program that airs live on STN49. While the footage of the bikes is real, and is to be taken very, very seriously, feel free to laugh at the rest.)


Many cities throughout Europe and China offer a solution that alleviates the burden of bike ownership by offering a bicycle sharing system. This allows users to essentially rent a bike at point A and drop it off at a docking station at point B. Some of these services are free, while others require a monetary deposit or membership fee to ensure that you return the bike. They certainly cut down congestion in the streets by acting as an alternative form of public transit. The fact down that they cut down on greenhouse gases is a nice bonus, and definitely appeals to city people swim smog soup daily and a younger generation who are more environmentally conscientious than their parents.


Cities across the United States have adopted similar programs in the past. While some have failed due to high costs, cities such as Washington D.C., Fort Worth, and very recently, New York City, are re-introducing shared bike programs with more success than ever before. Bike sharing has doubled across the nation, with 18,000 bikes in use in 34 different programs.


New York City’s program, Citi Bike, is the largest in the nation. Currently, Citi Bike charges $9.95 for 24-hour access, $25 for a week pass, and $95 for an annual membership. Three months after introducing Citi Bike, a whooping two million rides had been taken. It’s certainly a feat in a country that is so heavily reliant on cars for transport.


While this is a green and convenient public transportation option for urban dwellers, could Citi Bike be the next hot thing on the University of Delaware’s campus?


It’s possible. Many students buy bikes when they come to school. If the University of Delaware could offer a free or low-cost bike sharing program, it would be to the economic benefit of students to participate in it rather than buying their own bike, making this a feasible option. However, one of the main reasons bike sharing programs failed in the past is that they are costly to establish and maintain. UD’s student body of 20,000 is only a fraction of the crowded cities with populations in the hundred thousands to millions. The University could probably not afford to accept as small of a profit margin because there would be fewer users. Also, If the University could not subsidize the program, the cost may be too high to be reasonable for those who need to be served most.


Another roadblock to implementing bike sharing in Newark is safety, or lack thereof. If the town is to expect more bike riders, we’ll naturally need more bike lanes. I’ve had to cringe far too many times as riders crash into pedestrians because they have to bike on the sidewalks to stay safe. I even occasion collide with the unobservant pedestrian who has his or her face buried into their iPhone. Sorry not sorry. With a little collaboration, the University and the Newark community should be able to overcome this problem together.


At the moment, there’s been little talk about introducing bike sharing to Newark. The Review hasn’t recently mentioned the idea, despite the introduction of bike sharing systems on other college campuses. Georgia Tech started a trial using a bikes from a company called viaCycle, which supplies bikes that can be locked anywhere and don’t require a special docking station, which makes them up to a third cheaper to set up.  They keep track of the bikes via GPS and users can unlock and pay for their ride for with a mobile app. These innovations could help make bike sharing a realization not only for the University of Delaware, but also for colleges across the nation.


So is bike sharing the future of transportation for the University of Delaware? It certainly could be. But we need to let our school know that transportation is causing real problems, and that we already have a real solution.


Links where I got some of my info and for you if you wanted to read more about bike sharing: