MSA launches free bicycle-sharing program for students

The 2012-2013 academic year will be the program's official launch period.

MU’s first free bicycle-sharing program, which has been in the works since September, will begin in July.

“We are taking the first real steps behind the program,” said Tyler Ricketts, Missouri Students Association Board of Elections Commissioners chairman. “It has been discussed in the past, but we’re really on the ball about making it happen, and it will be a major benefit for students.”

MSA and the Residence Halls Association have joined forces to bring students a free and easy-to-use bicycle program.

“The bike share program is a great idea for students," RHA President Zack Folk said. "Especially (for) those living on campus who need to get somewhere fast but do not want to worry about the hassle of owning and caring for a bike or any other mode of transportation."

The program's official pilot launch period will take place during the 2012-2013 academic year.

“(For the first year) we will be working with the details to see what works and what doesn’t,” Ricketts said.

MSA and RHA originally planned to get free bicycles from the MU Surplus Property warehouse, but after examining the situation, they decided to take a different route.

“(The bikes from the warehouse) tend to be in poor condition and are not the same type of bike,” RHA Sustainability Coordinator James Jordan said. “If we bought new bikes, they could all be the same make and model. This would allow us to maintain the bikes easier and make the purchasing of spare parts simpler.”

MSA and RHA decided having a cohesive program of industrial bicycles of the same brand and style would be more beneficial. The bicycles were purchased from Worksman Cycles, which has supplied bicycles for other bicycle-sharing campus programs.

Before the proposed bicycle-sharing program, students could either bring a bicycle from home, rent from a private company or do without one.

Tiger Wheels, a private bicycle rental service in Columbia, provided bicycle rentals for $35 per semester and repairs for $3 per month, according to its Facebook page.

MU’s bicycle-sharing program, however, is free. Students can check out bicycles from the MU Student Center's information desk and have them for a 24-hour period.

“(It’s similar) to checking out a laptop from the Student Center for a few hours,” Jordan said.

Both MSA and RHA are confident in the pilot's success, which includes the students' satisfaction and the program's longevity.

“Our program has the backing and support of administrators, so we are unique in that we have support of stakeholders to make it (a) long-lasting and successful (program),” Ricketts said.

Jordan said he hopes the program will help make MU's campus more "green."

“I hope that as the program expands over the years, fewer students find the need to bring a car to campus, and more parents flat-out tell them that they cannot have a car once they see the services we offer, though that might be a ways off,” Jordan said.

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