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Bike Share program moves forward

BY ABIGAIL MEIER | OCTOBER 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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Iowa City community members could potentially see an increase in bike use with a new bike-sharing program that will allow University of Iowa faculty, students, and Iowa City residents to rent bikes.

The UI Staff Council voted Wednesday to support the bike-sharing initiative, a university and community effort, despite the uncertainty about the program.

Several groups, including the UI Student Government, the UI Bicycle Advisory Council, Office of Sustainability, and the Iowa City community banded together to apply for a grant through the Iowa Department of Transportation. In order to obtain the grant, the program must have interest from both the university and the surrounding community. While this support has been garnered, officials are still waiting to hear the results of the application.

If the Iowa DOT provides the grant, the Staff Council pledges it will financially support the program. Officials said the amount of funding will be decided if the program receives the grant.

The bike-sharing program aims to increase the number of bikers and reduce car use in the downtown. Members will have the option to buy a membership or rent a bike.

“This is for the people who may not be die-hard bikers who don’t bike to work or class every day,” said Joshua Smith, staff council member and Office of Sustainability chair. “This will give them the option to take a bike out for lunch or to that meeting every day instead of their cars.”

The UI Bicycle Advisory Council now has enough pledges to submit the grant to the Iowa DOT. Smith said this will promote a healthy alternative to automobile use.

Smith also said the program is part of the efforts of the UI 2020 vision, which centers on sustainability goals that target energy conservation, renewable energies, waste division, efficient transportation, and also addresses research and discovery in sustainable water resources and student involvement.

“There [are] many different levels we can embrace to make this a more sustainable university, and I think this is another rung in the ladder,” Staff Council President Randy Nessler said.

The UI may go through the company B-cycle, based in Denver. It is a bike-sharing program that meets the transportation, health, and environmental needs of communities. The company operates in 28 different locations throughout the United States.

Smith said community members will have the option to buy memberships for $30 a year or rent the bikes at $2.50 an hour, $7 for a whole day. If the renter is a member, the first half hour using the bike will be of no cost. Smith predicts they will obtain approximately 30 bikes at three different locations around the eastern downtown Iowa City.

People will also be able to look online to locate how many bikes are available and at which locations through a smart phone app. The program requires a yearly fee to support the software. B-cycle would allow renters to use credit cards to rent the bikes and are looking into using U-bill for students to pay for it as well.

Iowa City officials have also pledged $10,500 to support the program. Kris Ackerson, the assistant transportation planner of the Metropolitan Planning Organization of Johnson County, said this will give members of the Iowa City community a variety of options to use different types of transportation, much like the Zipcar program.

“More and more people are using alternatives from driving a car,” Ackerson said. “Having a bike share program will offer more opportunities for people to choose from a variety of transportation options.”

During last year’s campaign for UISG, Katherine Valde, now the UISG president, found students were most in favor of the bike-sharing campaign and has been a top priority since. Valde said the UISG recently received positive feedback from a survey it did on 600 students to see if this is a program students would be interested in.

The UISG pledged $3,000 for the program this fall.

“This program is really helpful for students to get to places and classes, but also a healthier option for students as a recreational use,” Valde said. “This would not only support our students but it would benefit the city as a whole.”


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