Getting around UConn’s Storrs campus will soon be a little easier: a bike-sharing pilot program is set to begin in the coming months. UConn students, faculty, or staff will be able to check out one of 20 bicycles from Homer Babbidge Library and use it to get around campus for the day.
The program, called “UConn Cycles,” will allow anyone with a current UConn ID to borrow a bike through the library’s iDesk, which will provide helmets and keys for the bike locks.
The program was designed by the library, in partnership with the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), the University’s Office of Environmental Policy, and the EcoHusky student group. USG purchased 20 Raleigh Circa 18 bikes, which are easy to use and maintain. Under the plan, the library will house the bicycles in a rack on the west side of the building. The bikes can be rented beginning when the library opens and must be returned by 5 p.m. Their availability can be checked online, once the program is up and running.
“The bike sharing program will help demonstrate that bicycling at UConn is a viable, healthy, and clean transportation alternative that would reduce air emissions from use of cars and other vehicles,” says Richard Miller, director of UConn’s Office of Environmental Policy.
Student volunteers from the EcoHouse learning community and EcoHusky will check the bikes daily, and report any problems to the Tolland Bicycle Shop, where they were purchased. The shop’s owner will work with and train the students on bike maintenance. The students will also maintain statistics on how often the bikes are checked out, and record the mileage from the bicycles’ odometers.
The UConn Cycles program is part of a larger effort to improve transportation congestion at Storrs. New bicycle road signage and markings are planned as well. Educating cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians about safety and how best to share the roads and walkways are also part of the initiative.
Many universities have developed bike sharing programs, including Emory, The University of Chicago, and Yale.
If the UConn program is successful, Miller says, the program can be expanded to include more bikes.
“A bike-sharing program is one of the transportation-related action items in UConn’s Climate Action Plan,” adds Miller. “So biking is not only a healthy, and now convenient, way to get around campus, but it’s also more environmentally sustainable – users will be helping UConn reduce its carbon footprint.”
Two years ago, the University Libraries began to explore partnerships with others on campus in an effort to achieve the University’s goal of becoming more carbon neutral as specified in the Academic Plan. Earlier this year, the library recognized a natural fit with a bicycle-share program proposed by the Office of Environmental Policy and EcoHusky.
“Homer Babbidge Library seemed uniquely suited for the program,” says Jane Recchio, a staff member at the library who is helping to coordinate the program. “The building offers a sheltered area to store the bicycles, is centrally located, and more importantly, can provide the necessary accountability through its circulation system.”
Accountability, it turns out, is key. In the late 1960s a bike-sharing program known as “Blue Bike” began under then-President Homer Babbidge. There was no formal check-out system, so anyone could use the bikes, which were scattered around campus. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for bikes to begin disappearing.
The location of many of the missing bikes was discovered later, when Mirror Lake had to be drained.
UConn Today will post the program’s start date once it has been determined, as well as details on how to borrow a bike.