A survey is underway to measure student interest for a new bike share program at Chapman University, which some researchers say can decrease traffic congestion and improve the health of the pedalers who use it, according to a 2018 a report from Environmental Health Perspectives.
Chapman’s Student Government Association (SGA) drew up the survey in response to student requests and out of a desire to improve campus sustainability, said Ishani Patel, freshman business major and SGA’s Student Organization Senator.
If respondents show enthusiasm about the idea, SGA may bring in a bike share program for students and faculty, as early as next semester, according to Patel, who is heading the initiative. The survey will remain open until Mackenzie Crigger, Sustainability Manager, determines that enough students have participated, Patel said.
As of Feb. 27, “Mackenzie Crigger reached back to me and said that she had not yet pulled up the survey data,” Patel said. “Everything is up in the air, because this is still in the initial planning stages. Our first step is to garner student interest through this survey and go from there.”
While SGA isn’t looking for an exact number of positive responses to implement the program, “we just want approximately above a thousand students,” Patel said.
Patel believes a bikeshare program would not only help students travel between classes, but allow them to run errands or go to the Orange Circle.
“I would hope it would be like Lime, where you would use an app and take a picture to unlock the bike,” Patel said.
For Lime, there is a $1 fee to start the scooter, and an additional 15 cents per minute used. Though Lime is an electric scooter company, Patel said the idea would be similar for bike sharing.
“One prime example of campus nearby that has a great bike-sharing program would be Pomona College,” Patel said.
This time last year Pomona College partnered with Ofo, a bike share company, to help students get all around campus, according to the Pomona College website. However, the program was short-lived.
“After the program launched in February with a free pilot, there were scattered complaints that the bikes were blocking paths,” according to The Student Life, the newspaper of the Claremont Colleges.
The semester after its implementation, Ofo left the Claremont Colleges. At this same time, the city of Claremont “banned electric sharing services while it studies their effects and works out potential regulations,” according to The Student Life. Most bike sharing systems use wireless electronic communication for bicycle pickup, drop-off and tracking, according to a study in 2013 in Journal of the Transportation Research Board.
Patel attributed Pomona’s failure to an Ofo business crisis. That aside, U.S. bike share use has gone up 25 percent from 2016 to 2017, with 35 million trips taken in 2017, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.
If there is enough interest, a program here would be built around the values of sustainability, value for money and health, Patel said.
If the initiative moves forward, SGA would have to consider how to deal with the issues of rider safety and theft.
“A lot of the bike sharing programs we choose, and the companies we look at, have security programs in place to insure vandalism and theft is kept at a minimum, and it’s the students responsibility and obligation to pay,” she said.
It is too soon to know the source of funding for the bikes, Patel said. “Potentially one could use funding from SGA (if the entire senate agrees) or funding from the sustainability’s department,” she said.
Although Patel inferred a price would come with bringing bikes to campus, the Sustainability Department said otherwise. “There is no funding required for the bike shares we have considered,” Crigger said.
Crigger would not disclose which programs have been considered.
Some students might be more willing to use loaners, because there is an “epidemic” of stolen bikes, said Francesca Fangary, junior screenwriting and public relations and advertising major. Though she prefers to walk, Fangary said if she had a bike on campus she would rather rent than risk a bike theft.
Chapman’s Public Safety Bicycle Rules and Regulations requires that all bicycle owners register bikes for security. Jocelyn Dawson, a sophomore business major, had her $100 bike stolen on campus. Dawson thinks having a bike sharing program could save students time and money from committing to buying their own bike.
Dawson also believes that implementing this program can ease congestion in Chapman parking lots and aid in reducing the overall CO2 emissions on and off campus. Not to mention, keeping students active, she said.
“This might be a really fun way to bond with friends or get a quick workout in before class,” Dawson said.
If implemented, these bikes would only be available to Chapman students, faculty and staff – at least initially.
“We have not yet reached out to the communities or Orange, but once this bike-sharing platform is approved we will,” Patel said.
Permitting the loaners to be used within a two-mile radius from Chapman would be a good idea, Patel said.
“Architecturally and structurally, Chapman is very flat. So it’s very easy to take the bike around and stuff like that,” Patel said.
The number of students that drive to school from increasingly short distances and refuse to carpool in many ways reflect Chapman’s affluence and how we, as a school, depend on our own convenience, said Jenny Gritton, senior environmental science and policy major.
Gritton chooses biking as her primary mode of transportation. A program would need to contain incentives to work, said Gritton who specializes in transportation planning at IBI Group, a modern city design company.
“At the end of the day if the students are not interested then they will not take advantage of it,” Gritton said.
Chapman’s existing Bike Voucher Program leaves any student, faculty or staff member who is willing to not bring a car to campus for two years eligible for $300-350. The money may be used at a local bike shop to cover the cost of a bike, helmet or to simply upgrade your bike for transportation purposes, according to a pdf on the Chapman website.
“Biking instead of driving not only saves you money but also reduces your fossil fuel emissions, and it improves your physical and mental health cause you’re having a that little squirt of endorphins from the exercise,” Gritton said.