UMass Bike Share Program plans to increase stock of rentals

By Hannah Tran-Trinh

(Erica Lowenkron/Daily Collegian)
(Erica Lowenkron/Daily Collegian)

As spring slowly thaws out the Pioneer Valley, more and more people are taking the initiative to enjoy the outdoors, especially on the University of Massachusetts campus. Students are congregating on grassy lawns, kicking around soccer balls, setting up “KanJam” outside residence halls, sunbathing on “Southwest beach,” and lighting their grills. And as temperatures rise, more and more bikes are showing up on campus roads, transporting students to and from classes.

Five years ago, the Student Government Association established the Bike Share Program and made bike rentals to and from the Student Union available for up to 24 hours. Thirty bikes were given as a class gift from 2010 alumni, along with a bike rack that is positioned outside of the building. The SGA set up a program where students could sign out bikes directly, receive a key to unlock the bike of their choice, and return it within a 24 hour time span to avoid late fees. The bikes can be used anywhere on and off campus, as long as they are returned within the rental limits.

Jennifer Raichel, the sustainability secretary for the SGA and leader of the program, said users of the program aren’t limited to the undergrad population.

“It’s very common for staff, grad students and international students to use to program. …Bike travel is very common everywhere but the United States, where it is so car-cultured,” Raichel said.

According to Raichel, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy put forth a long term plan that includes revisions to the University’s road system in order to allow for better accessibility, safety to bikers and to promote a greener campus.

“The campus plan for the next 50 years has integrated a plan to do changes to the roads on North Pleasant Street to Massachusetts Avenue,” Raichel said. “The biggest change infrastructure-wise was that more of the roads are shared roads or more of them are pedestrian-focused. There won’t be as many cars coming through campus and hopefully that will help expand the Bike Share Program.”

“Out of all the things that the SGA does and the programs that we run, the Bike Share Program is constantly used when it’s open,” Raichel said. “We usually have a waitlist almost every day.”

The program is currently relatively small, it offers 16 rentable bikes to a student demand that exceeds the available stock, according to Raichel. She said that many people do not know about the program right now because they haven’t done a lot of outreach. There is no need to advertise because of the program’s inability to meet already high levels of demand.

The Bike Share Program will gain about 20 more bikes within the next six months, according to Raichel. The SGA was able to allocate $7,000 to purchase more bikes to expand the program. CrimsonBikes, a bike share program in Cambridge, reached out to the SGA and offered a discounted price on the extra bikes that are to be purchased.

The offer by CrimsonBikes isn’t the only bike program expansion initiative on the table. UMass and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission have teamed up to plan for a bigger program to rent out bikes around the area. They plan on modeling it after popular city bike rental programs such as Hubway in Boston or Citi Bike in New York City. People will soon be able to simply tap their ID card on a screen set up in various locations around the area, and rent or return bikes throughout the day.
According to Raichel, it should be up and running within the next two to two and a half years, as they are currently applying for grants to fulfill the plan’s requirements.
Hannah Tran-Trinh can be reached at [email protected]