Everything you need to know about the new bike share


The University announced the launch of a new bike share program called UBike this summer — a program which aims to give members of the University community an inexpensive, efficient and environmentally friendly transportation option for traveling around Grounds. The program is set to go live within the first two months of school.

What’s a bike share program?

A bike share allows individuals to pick up a bike at a designated parking hub, use it for a certain period of time and then drop it back off at any one of several parking stations. The objective is to provide a convenient and affordable transportation option for locals and tourists alike.

The bikes are shared through membership in the program, whether that membership be for a day, month or year. Members have the option to either reserve the bikes in advance or pick them up at the parking hubs without reservations. Both options will be available through UBike.

Bike share programs are gaining popularity across the country. Washington, New York City, Boston and Minneapolis are known for their large bike share programs.

Where did the idea come from?

Bringing a bike share program to the University was introduced in 2008 by a group of undergraduate students as an academic project. Since then, the Office of the Architect and Department of Parking and Transportation have been working to make that proposal a reality.

Parking and Transportation Director Becca White said the program aims to give students an option for mid-day transportation, in addition to the bus system and walking. “Bike share provides a mobility option we haven’t had before,” White said.

Who is sponsoring the program?

The Virginia Department of Transportation provided a Transportation Enhancement grant that allowed the Department of Parking and Transportation to initially develop the biking system. Once the program gains popularity, though, membership fees and funding from the University transportation department will keep the program running.

The University’s transportation department will be responsible for managing the system. The bikes are supplied from Social Bicycles (SoBi), a company based in New York that designs smart bikes for use in bike share programs across the country.

Blue Ridge Cyclery, a locally-owned bike shop, is responsible for bike maintenance and redistribution.

Where can I pick up and drop off the bikes?

UBike will be composed of 17 bike stations and 120 bikes. The bike stations will be placed around Central Grounds. Notable stops include the Corner, the Aquatic & Fitness Center, the Observatory Hill Dining Hall, Clark Hall, and Newcomb Hall. Bikes can be picked up and dropped off at any of the stations, all of which can be found using the Social Bicycles mobile app.

How much does it cost?

Prices vary with length of membership. A daily membership costs $5, a monthly membership costs $20 and an annual membership runs $80. Anyone with a University affiliation can purchase an annual membership for $60. Financial penalties are imposed for misuse, returning the bikes late and for not returning the bikes at all.

How long can I use the bike?

The bikes are intended for shorter trips across the designated area between the bike stations. White said that time limits and overuse fees have not been programed yet, and that the program would be “dynamic.” Daily time limits will likely be in the range of one to two hours, with a prorated fine of $1 to $2 per hour for extra use. Bikes will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Where can I take the bike?
UBike is designed primarily to be used within the system area, which as of now covers central Grounds, the Alderman Road Residence Areas, the Medical Center, Lambeth Housing, the Architecture School and the Corner. Bikes can be taken out of system area, but they would need to be locked, put on hold, and returned to a hub within the allotted daily time. If a rider locks the bike and ends their ride (rather than putting the bike on hold) outside a hub, they will be charged a fine. According to White, this fee will be small (in the range of $5) if this occurs within the system area, and large (in the range of $50) if it occurs outside of the system area. Members will be offered a financial incentive (likely in the range of a $3 credit) for retrieving and returning bikes locked outside of hubs.

What features do the bikes include?

The bikes will be 3-speed, shaft-drive bikes with front and back lights, a bell, an adjustable seat and a front basket. Each bike will also have a lock and a GPS tracking device. At the end of a ride, riders will have access to a map of their route and their personalized statistics including miles traveled, calories burned, carbon dioxide emissions reduced and the amount of money saved by biking instead of driving.

Can I reserve a bike ahead of time?

A bike reservation can be made online or using the Social Bicycles mobile app, but the amount of time in advance a bike can be reserved has not been determined yet. White said her department expects most bikes to be picked up on demand rather than using a reservation, but that reservations will likely be available 10-15 minutes before pick-up.

Why isn’t it ready yet?

The original plan was to have the bike share ready for use during the summer, but UBike was slightly delayed for two reasons, White said. The University’s transportation department opted to use a newer version of electronics for the system that needed more time for certification and experienced difficulty in getting everything shipped in time. They expect the program to be up-and-running by early October at the latest.

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