“Now that I have a bike, I hit the snooze button a few more times and cruise on over [to class] with plenty of time to spare.”
Chris Lehmann desperately needed a better way of commuting to class after constantly waking up late for his classes and missing important events on campus. His prayers were finally answered when the SGA’s bike borrowing service was introduced to the university.
On October 3, the Student Government Association’s Bike Share Program began lending out bicycles for students, faculty and staff. But so far only students have taken advantage of the timely program, which offers almost 30 hours of bike rental at no cost. Bicycles can be rented from the SGA office in the Student Union and taken to virtually any part of campus, even into town to fill that prescription at CVS before it closes.
A brand-new canopied bicycle rack outside of the Student Union protects a fleet of 25 professionally decorated bicycles. Each bicycle is enthroned with colors of maroon and white along with the UMass logo on its frame.
These bikes are available to anyone with a valid Ucard or UMass ID. The ‘free bike rental service,’ as Secretary of Sustainability Cameron Kackley calls it, is meant to serve those in need of transportation around campus.
“The program is great for students who need a way to get around campus,” said Kackley, noting that the bike rental service has already become popular. Amber Hewett, Bike Share program facilitator said that after only two weeks, interest is growing steadily.
“After a slow start, the visibility of bikes in use on campus has drawn more students to participate,” Hewett said. “At this point, it is common for nearly all of our bikes to be checked out at any given time.”
“Such demand will hopefully be met by expansion of the program in coming semesters,” she said.
Chris Lehmann, of 374 North Pleasant St., said he heard about the program through the SGA and immediately rented a bicycle. “I rented the same bike [from last week] and I’m most likely going to continue renting it for the rest of the week,” he said. “On a larger scale, I’ll probably rent the bike every day for the rest of the year.”
At a time when parking on campus almost always yields a ticket and the buses are never on time, students finally have another option. Kackley believes commuter students – like Lehmann, as well as out-of-state students will benefit most from the new service.
“The UMass Physical Plant donated $3,000 towards the project in addition to installing new bike racks all over campus,” said Kackley. The class of 2010 also donated $10,000 towards the bike program.
Kackley said the bike share, which is founded off UMass Lowell’s “Freewheelers” bicycle rental program, almost didn’t come together. Last spring, the SGA Coordinating Council voted down the bike share motion. But Claire Hopkins, who held the same position as Kackley last spring; took the idea to Ezra Small, the new campus sustainability manager who helped write the proposal and secure funding for the SGA subsidiary program.
The program is the brainchild of Hewett, who began exploring the idea of a program like “Freewheelers” after gauging student interest and receiving positive feedback in her time serving the SGA Environmental Committee.
“I researched schools with successful programs and decided that UMass fit perfectly alongside them,” she said. “Amherst is an increasingly bike-friendly area and I loved the idea of every student having access to the opportunity to enjoy this program.”
Kackley echoed Hewett’s thoughts when he said that if the new service proved successful, he’d like to expand. “My goal is to expand to residential areas,” he said. “That would be ideal.”