Thanks to the EcoReps’ extended bike-share pilot program, students may see more of their peers biking around campus this fall.
The program, first piloted last spring, was re-launched for another test run on Sept. 9. This semester, the program is set to expand and include 150 to 200 students who will use the same bikes from last semester.
In order to join the program, students must first sign up for a 45-minute information session. The session, run by an EcoRep, is designed to teach users about New York City bike laws, bike safety, and the proper way to lock up a bike.
Training sessions are set to begin for new bike-share users in late September or early October. For now, students who participated in the pilot last spring are still using the bikes.
Once trained, users may sign out available bikes from the 24-hour Hospitality Desk in Hartley Hall. Students can then take bikes from a special bike rack located between Carman Hall and Lerner Hall. Due to safety concerns about late-night biking, the bikes are available only from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The bike share has been in the works for around three years and was finally made a reality last semester when 6 bikes were made available to 100 randomly chosen students from Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science for four weeks.
This summer, the city launched a new bike-share program, Citi Bike, but it doesn’t go north of 60th Street.
“It’s a wonderful program because it gives the opportunity to students who don’t have the space or money to ride a bike safely in New York City, and it’s both a healthy and great alternative mode of transportation,” Raphaëlle Debenedetti, CC ’14 and president of EcoReps, said.
Eliana Bessler, CC ’17, said that she thought the bike-share program expansion would help students venture off campus more frequently.
“When I first came to Columbia, I was advised to leave campus at least once a week to explore New York City and just have a change of scenery,” she said. “Having a bike constantly available would make it extremely easy to make that happen without spending over $5 to take the subway back and forth.”
The bike share was originally funded through a donation of about $2,500 from the Columbia College Student Council and the Engineering Student Council, but members of EcoReps hope that gathering more data from an expanded pilot will draw the attention of administrators and potentially lead to a Columbia-sponsored program.
For now, Jake Wood, SEAS ’15 and the EcoRep in charge of the bike-share program, asks students partaking in the pilot program to fill out comment cards listing their thoughts about the program and their suggested improvements. The group hopes to assemble a spreadsheet of these comments and deliver a presentation to the University within the year.
“We hope to have a solid package to give to the University and say, ‘This is something that the university appreciates, that the students really enjoy, and that is improving our campus,’” Wood said.
Members of EcoReps are hopeful that a University investment in the program could add more bikes to the fleet, an automated check-out system, and perhaps more rental stations. The full program would also allow students to keep bikes out until about 10 p.m., and would ideally continue through breaks, Wood said.
Other colleges have already instituted bike-share systems. Once the EcoReps program is more developed, Wood said, the group may look into an affiliation with the New York University bike share, which has 13 rental stations in downtown Manhattan and between 60 and 80 bikes.
Wood said that EcoReps members also aspire to eventually include all undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty in its full program.
“If we have a full fleet, I think a huge portion of the University could be involved,” Wood said. “Within 10 to 20 percent of the entire university is reasonable to expect.”
Emma Tuzinkiewicz, CC ’15, said in an email that the bike-share enabled her to explore different parts of the city.
“Utilizing the program is an environmentally-friendly and active way to explore the best city in the world in which we are fortunate to live,” she said.