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A Bike-Friendly Binghamton

One club's mission to bring a bike share to campus.

Walking around campus, students cannot help but notice that there are bikes. Everywhere. Bicycles overflow from racks in front of the Engineering Building, are chained to lamp posts and are left in the tombs of Glenn G. Bartle Library. On a campus as large as Binghamton University’s, bicycles are an obvious advantage for mobility — they are easy to use and environmentally friendly. But the infrastructure of Binghamton, Vestal and campus have proven insufficient, cluttered and outright unsafe for both riders and pedestrians.

Jeffrey Kastle, a senior majoring in environmental studies, and Devan Tracy, a senior majoring in mechanical and sustainable engineering, are trying to change things. They are members of IDEAS, or Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions, an on-campus environmental activism group. Their latest project: the Binghamton University Bike Share Program.

A bike share program consists of several hubs housing public bicycles, which can then be checked out, ridden and docked at another station, ready for another rider to pick them up. The system will ideally work on a “radio frequency ID tag” system, registering the student taking the bike out and sending a signal to one of several receivers on campus, holding the student accountable and assuring that the bikes are not abused. It is an incredibly convenient way to facilitate quick and free mobility across campus, as well as cutting down on pedestrian and automobile traffic, and above all, helping students get to class on time.

“A lot of we engineers have to go to the Engineering Building to hand in homework,” Tracy said. “It would be great to be able to just get on a bike, drop it off and get back without any hassle.”

The bike share will be funded by a grant given to IDEAS by the SUNY sustainability fund, which could reach up to $7,500. The club has also received bikes donated by Binghamton’s strong cycling community, and is in the process of obtaining funds from Residential Life and independent donations. University at Buffalo, SUNY Cortland and Stony Brook University have already implemented such programs, and to great success.

The program is part of a continuous campaign to reduce the University’s carbon footprint and make BU a greener campus. Benefits to students aside, a bike share program encourages students to leave their cars at home, instead choosing to hop on a bike, ride to class and simply dock the bike at a station when they are done. This cuts down significantly on energy consumption and carbon emissions released by automobile use. What’s not to like?

“Even people who aren’t environmentally conscious are going to be excited because it gives them more options to get around campus without having to walk these long distances to spots that are hard to get to,” Kastle said.

The club is working on other projects as well. IDEAS is working on adding bike racks to the OCCT buses, which lack the same racks that the Broome County buses possess. They are encouraging everyone on campus to register their bikes, so if they ever happen to get stolen, students can report the crime to local authorities and greatly increase the chance of having their bikes found and returned. But most importantly, IDEAS is hoping to expand bicycle-friendly facilities in the community as well with the proposed Greenway project, which aims to create a pedestrian- and cyclist-only path along Vestal Parkway, notorious among the local cycling community for being incredibly inhospitable to riders coming from the city of Binghamton to campus on their bikes.

“It’s dangerous,” Kastle said. “There are people that have been run off the road by drivers, including a Binghamton professor just this year.”

The bike share program, which is set to begin next semester as a pilot program, will work in tandem with the Greenway project to make all areas pertinent to BU students greener, safer and more bicycle friendly. It makes Binghamton a prouder campus and improves the lives of everyone attending school here.

“There are things that get locked up because of politics, but not this issue. There’s a demand, and as long as that demand is there and we get the word out, this will happen, and everyone will benefit from it,” Kastle said.

Interested students can like the project’s “Binghamton Bike Share” Facebook page, which will be posting more details as they arise. Or, if you would like to play an active role in the program, you can contact Tracy directly at dtracy1@binghamton.edu.