What are the Issues?

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041 038     One of the issues in setting up a bike sharing program at UIUC is the preexisting infrastructure issues on campus. In certain areas there are not enough bike racks to support all cyclists wishing to park their bikes. This leads to cyclists parking their bikes in illegal or unsafe areas.

     Another issue is the placement of bike paths. Oftentimes cars or CUMTD buses cut into the bike paths, making a real danger for campus cyclists.

    Available bike racks are often in disrepair, forcing cyclists to find other means of parking their bikes as well as leaving the bike racks themselves in disuse.

Health is Wealth!

One of the biggest benefits of a bike-sharing program at UIUC would be the positive health impact on campus!

For instance, a study in Portland, Oregon–one of the greatest biking cities in the USA–finds that its current bicycling investments will save Oregon residents an overall total of $63 million healthcare costs by 2017! This isn’t exactly surprising as “[c]ountries with the highest levels of active transportation generally had the lowest obesity rates” and the Center for Disease Control finds that obesity is correlated with a whole host of health conditions:

  • coronary heart diseases
  • type 2 diabetes
  • various cancers
  • hypertension
  • liver and gallbladder diseases
  • sleep apneas
  • osteoarthritis

Appleton at road.cc discusses how bicycling is also relevant to mental wellbeing as “cyclists find their mode of transport at least as flexible and convenient as those who use cars, with lower stress and greater feelings of freedom, relaxation and excitement,” something we all need in a high-stress world!

Last, Lee from Livestrong finds that exercise directly correlates very well with academic achievement and concentration, and “may be linked to preventing a range of cognitive and neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.” Well-planned bicycle-sharing programs will certainly encourage individuals to exercise more often; for example, bicycle-riding in Paris, France–which has one of the world’s largest and most successful bike-sharing programs–has since increased by an overwhelming 70% since the introduction of the Vélib bicycle-sharing program in 2007!

Because of all these figures, we predict that establishing a bike-sharing program at the University of Illinois will have a profound impact on both the health of students, faculty, and staff here.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more!

Did You Know?

  • About 6,400 people die every year in Mexico City, while up to a million more develop breathing problems due to air pollution
  • In December 1952, fatal smog developed in London, killing 4,000 people and harming 8,000
  • People who live in high-pollution areas have a 20% higher risk of death from lung cancer than those who do not live in high-pollution areas
  • Air pollution from China has been found in central California
  • In California, air pollution causes more deaths than car crashes

What can we do about this?  Bike sharing is a great way to reduce air pollution by getting out of that car and getting onto that bike!  For example, in Portland, Oregon, their bike-sharing program prevents the release of 9,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.  So support bike sharing, and save the planet too!

Sources: Random FactsEVs Roll

Where’s the Money At?

So how will this wonderful bike-sharing program be funded?  Well, we have a ton of ideas!

1.) Initial funding by the Student Sustainability Committee

All programs have to start somewhere, and the SSC at UIUC is a great place for funding the initial costs of a bike-sharing program! The SSC is a student panel that distributes about 1 million dollars from student tuition fees to various green project proposals present at the university, and if the bike-sharing proposal could get about a $300,000 grant–about how much the University of Wisconsin at Madison paid to start its bike-sharing program–it could be easily funded.

2.) A flat fee included in tuition

This is already something that is present at our university with the public busing system.  Every student has an extra charge added to their tuition in order to ride the CUMTD, or the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, for free during the year.  However, because there are a lot of people who choose to bring their own bicycles to the university, having a required fee would be unfair to those people.  Therefore, if this solution is implemented, an option to opt out of this charge would be available

3.) Advertising on the bikes

This method has already been utilized in almost every bike-sharing program.  The hardest part is finding sponsors to have ads put on our bikes, but this would be an easy and simple way to generate a lot of revenue, and there are plenty of local on-campus restaurants as likely sponsors.  However, this cannot be the sole source of income.  Some possible partners that we have are the CUMTD and bike sharing companies such as B-Cycle or Nice ride to manage the entire program

4.) Hourly rate

Many universities that have a bike-sharing program and charge an hourly rate do not charge anything for the first half hour or hour.  After that, an hourly rate will be charged up to a certain amount of time, say two days or so.  After this time, unless there was a pre-existing agreement, the bike will be considered stolen and the student’s account will be charged for the cost of the bike.  This could be used for people who opted out of the tuition fee, but have one of those days where they just really need a bike, and our bike-sharing program will come to the rescue!  This hourly rate will be paid either by charging the amount to the student’s account, or can be bought with extra credits.  For those of you not at the University of Illinois, each student has the option to buy credits that can be used to pay for things such as laundry, cafeteria meals, etc.  It’s a pretty sweet deal!

Tl;dr.  Except hopefully not!  Hope everyone has a wonderful day and you stay tuned for another update about our proposal.

Why UIUC Needs a Bike-Sharing Program

Today, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has four primary means of transportation for students, faculty, and staff:

  • Walking
  • Bicycling
  • Personal automobiles
  • Public transit

Walking from destination to destination is by far the most common way people get around campus, and the University’s “Frequently Asked Questions” page cites that more than 14,000 students and a fair number of university faculty bring bicycles to campus to take advantage of the 4.7 miles of bicycle paths. As for driving, about 75% of all students here have a car on campus, according to U.S. News & World Report. The public transit options, run by the Champaign-Urbana Mass-Transit District (CUMTD), offer a lot of services:

  • Frequent and regular buses with generally comprehensive routes
  • Specialty curb-to-curb paratransit for individuals covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • SafeRides for safe transit after dark in remote locations
  • Specific bus routes like tranSPORT for express transport to the University’s Assembly Hall on game days.

With so many options invested in by the university administration for how students, staff, and faculty can get to class, it may seem like the current system doesn’t need any improvement. However, we all know how large the Urbana-Champaign campus is–7.1 square miles of total building facilities, in fact, not including any of the distances between all these buildings–and once this is taken into account, it’s easy to understand how walking from destination to destination on a daily basis can be both unfeasible and a waste of time.

That said, the two major modes of individual transportation–biking and driving cars–aren’t perfect either. While students, faculty, and staff bringing bicycles and private automobiles to campus is fairly common, both of these require time commitments of finding parking each bike or car trip as well as significant finances in the vehicles. For example, a user-generated article from Forbes Magazine estimates the average cost of purchasing a standard bicycle at around $400, with an average maintenance cost of $100 per year. As for automobiles, Samantha from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s undergraduate student admissions blog notes that a parking permit on campus costs an average of $600 annually and also involves hefty costs like paying for gas and automobile insurance. Additionally, pedestrians are emphasized through campus infrastructure policies like frequent pedestrian crosswalks, many major roads being reconstructed as one-way streets, and low automobile speed limits, all of which are relatively high barriers for new drivers to navigate. International and out-of-state students are particularly disadvantaged as they cannot easily bring a bicycle or automobile to campus; these students would have to either rent out campus space or somehow bring the bicycles or automobiles home for the summer, and continually repeating this process throughout his or her time at the university is both costly and impractical.

Meanwhile, while the services provided by the CUMTD are very useful–often only having a few minutes for margin of error and already paid for in student tuition fees or covered in staff and faculty’s benefits–they can also be insufficient. For instance, the CUMTD does not operate on major holidays, only runs skeleton crews of bus routes every half hour after nightfall, and has limited weekend schedules. As services stand now, students, staff, and faculty who need to meet after hours, on holidays, or on weekends for extracurricular activities, group projects, or conferences cannot rely on the CUMTD. Additionally, there is an inherent lack of convenience and independence from relying on public transit in general, and being just a minute too late to board a bus can result in the unfortunate (and commonly shared) experience of being late to classes, meetings, or interviews.

One solution for these inefficiencies would be to introduce a bike-sharing program at UIUC. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the specific policy we hope to install as well as benefits of doing so!

Bike-Sharing: A Primer

So what, you ask, does a modern bike-sharing program exactly entail? According to B-Cycle–an experienced bike-sharing company with locations in 13 major U.S. cities–it’s basically a program that lets you have “a bike when you need it and gone when you don’t!”

While the first bike-sharing programs in the mid-1990’s relied heavily on the honor system (and unfortunately saw numerous instances of vandalism and theft), bike-sharing programs these days are very technologically advanced. Many programs have electronic docking kiosks for people to rent out and return bikes and almost all have attached either GPS (“global positioning system;” often used for individual travel directions as well as directing farm equipment) or RFID (“radio frequency identification;” often used in store merchandise to prevent theft) capabilities, or both, to individual bikes. Because of new rules for accountability, bike-sharing programs have become a lot more financially sustainable than in years past, and the following is usually how they work:

  1. Purchase a period membership either online or on-site at a bike kiosk. Example membership periods include options like 24-hours, a few months, to even a whole year!
  2. Take out a bike from any docking station with either a card swipe or personalized pin code. We’re proposing using university-issued iCards to make this process more streamlined!
  3. Bike! The first half hour is commonly free; additional rental fees increase afterwards by hour.
  4. Return the bike to any docking station. If bikes aren’t returned at all to any docking station within a certain time frame–generally an average of 3 days–it’s counted as “stolen” and a bulk fee is charged to the same account that initially paid for the bike-sharing membership.

These bike-sharing programs–especially ones based in the midwest–typically close in mid-December when the first snows start.

The key for success in a bike-sharing program, though, is that a targeted area is densely populated with many bike-sharing docks. Nobody wants to go out of his or her way to find a docking station close to the final destination just to return a shared bike, it’s too much effort!

…And that’s the gist of a standard bike-sharing program! We’ll be covering the current transportation situation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as well as the many benefits and planned implementation of a bike-sharing program soon, so stay tuned for more updates!

The Primordial Post

If you’re reading this, welcome! This blog will be focusing on the idea of having a bike-sharing program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We are a group of students really interested in this idea, and we hope to convince our lovely readers to help support our proposal!

So what is bike-sharing? Throughout many major cities and college campuses across the United States, administrations are implementing programs where people can take bikes from designated bike racks, ride them for a certain amount of time, and then return them to any bike rack on campus. This will be incredibly helpful for anyone who misses the bus by mere seconds and will be late to class if they wait for the next one, or if you’re just so darn sick of walking, but can’t manage to bring a bike or car to school!

Stay tuned for more updates and information, and in the meantime, happy Sunday!