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Going green: one bike at a time

UB is offering brand-new BikeShare program to students, faculty

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UB is the first university to use GPS tracking technology for students to come together as a biking community.

BikeShare at UB offers students, faculty and staff the option of renting bicycles instead of bringing their own to campus. By using GPS technology, participants can track and rent a bike conveniently using a computer or mobile device.

UB's Office of Sustainability and Office of Parking and Transportation Services have partnered with N.Y.-based company Social Bicycles and BikeShare, a community organization in Buffalo, to implement a new and innovative bicycle-sharing program on campus.

"The idea is to give people a healthy, green option for short trips around campus, with the goal of promoting better health and reducing the amount of vehicular traffic, especially for intra-campus jaunts," said Jim Simon, UB's sustainability engagement coordinator, in an email.

Participants find and reserve the nearest bicycle using the Buffalo BikeShare website and then have 15 minutes to get to the bike and punch in the PIN code given to them. Once the rider unlocks the bike, he puts the U-lock on the holster and is free to pedal away.

The user needs to return the bicycle to one of the BikeShare-designated bicycle racks on North or South Campus. On North Campus, BikeShare hubs are located between the Ellicott Complex and Greiner Hall, between Alumni Arena and the CFA, between the Student Union and the Commons and at the junction of Capen, Norton, and O'Brian Halls. On South, BikeShare racks can be found near the intersection of Hayes Road and the Main Circle, according to UB's website.

To lock up bikes when they're done, riders use the same PIN they used to unlock their bike. The code will reset once the transaction has been completed. After a bike has been returned, other users can see that it is available and go to the location to rent the bicycle.

The rider's first hour of use is free of charge. Each additional hour costs $3, and the maximum number of consecutive hours one can rent a bike is 24. In order to partake in BikeShare, faculty, staff and students need to pay an annual fee of $30.

In BikeShare's current beta-testing phase, in which operators are collecting data from users to make the system better and ensure that the GPS technology is working correctly, the annual fee has been reduced to $10.

Simon believes the GPS technology incorporated in UB's BikeShare adds a new dimension to the idea of bicycle sharing. He said with technology as "such a large part of our lives these days, the mobile and computer access will meet students where they are."

UB is the first university in the country to use this GPS system to power a bicycle-sharing program, according to Simon.

The bikes are standard cruisers with an internal drive shaft designed to decrease the possibility that a rider's pants or socks will become covered in bicycle grease. The bikes also have a metal basket on the front of them for ease of transportation. If a rider encounters a flat tire or discovers a mechanical issue while riding the bike, they can press the "repair" button on the keypad, which will alert BikeShare maintenance there is a problem and someone can come to fix it, according to UB's website.

Buffalo BikeShare was developed by a team at Buffalo CarShare, a local non-profit launched by six UB students and recent graduates in 2009. The original plan was conceived in 2007, according to Buffalo BikeShare's Creighton Randall.

"I competed in [the UB Panasci Entrepreneurship Competition in 2007] as an undergrad with three other engineering and business students," Randall said. "The concept evolved in graduate school considered how the program could best serve Buffalo, a city in which nearly a third of households don't own a car. It's great to see our work come full circle and see UB become a lab for this innovative transportation solution."

BikeShare partnered with Social Bicycles, which is based in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the company provided the bikes and the technology.

"BikeShare at UB demonstrates how the university can partner and integrate with our broader community, as well as leverage our student and faculty research to create solutions that move us toward a sustainable future," Simon said.

So far, BikeShare has been accepted well by the UB community. In the four weeks the program has been running, over 200 people have signed up, according to Randall. He says BikeShare is "thrilled" to be partnering with UB and the current testing on campus will provide the company with valuable information to expand the system in the coming months and years.

email: features@ubspectrum.com


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