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Sustainable sharing

A bike-sharing program on Grounds could benefit students and faculty with careful planning

Given the University’s overburdened bus system and goal of making Grounds increasingly environmentally friendly, a bike sharing program could be beneficial for the community. A group of University students is considering the feasibility of establishing such a program that would allow students and faculty to check out bikes.

The group has many progressive ideas, like relying on the honor code and an ID-tracking system to ensure bikes are cared for and returned. Issues such as the scale of the program, funding and sustainability, however, will need to be considered more thoroughly before deciding whether the project should be pursued.

For any transportation initiative at the University, scale is an issue worthy of careful evaluation. The bike-sharing program would be large enough to meet the community’s needs, easy to access and well-publicized. The student group rightly is taking time to gather information about other bike-sharing programs as well as about the interests and needs of community members. Another factor that needs to be considered in more detail before developing specific plans is the cost — both short- and long-term — of this project. Though a bike-sharing system could eventually save the University money that otherwise would be spent on gas or bus maintenance, a significant amount of funding will be needed to purchase the bikes and to maintain them. It also is necessary to recognize the potential for safety hazards that might arise with the implementation of a bike-sharing program. Students working on the initiative are considering a mandatory safety class for users, but this may not be adequate. Accidents involving bikers are fairly common around Grounds, and a large increase in biker traffic would only increase the potential for such accidents, even with safety training. Bikers can also be dangerous to pedestrians, so if this initiative is developed, its planners may want to consider working with University and city officials to establish more bike paths on Grounds to ensure everyone’s safety, even though this would require extra funding.

Dealing with the aforementioned issues will take time. The group of students interested in a bike-sharing system, therefore, must also deal with a more immediate concern: the continued existence of a group of students willing to dedicate their time to pursuing this initiative. This program will not be implemented overnight; a significant amount of time and energy would be required to prepare for the system’s launch. The current group of interested students, therefore, should take action to ensure that their planning efforts will not fizzle as many student ideas do during the summers between academic years.

Despite the difficulties and complexities of creating a bike-sharing system, such an initiative — if thoroughly planned — could be a viable way both to address transportation shortages and environmental issues on Grounds. Everyone involved with the project must keep in mind, though, that safety — not only sustainability and convenience — must be kept in mind. While this program could make the University greener, it might not make Grounds safer for bikers or pedestrians without careful planning.


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