Though the training wheels are still on, the Binghamton University bike share program has officially hit the road.
Students can now register, either on Facebook or at the information desk in the University Union, to borrow a bike for a few hours.
A staff member at the information desk will provide a key to unlock a specific bike as well as a helmet, and bikes are located on a rack located in the back of the Engineering Building, according to Shane Tracy, coordinator of the bike share.
Coordinators, who have been trained to test each bike, said that as long as the bikes are taken care of, there is no planned cost to students.
“The user must return the bike before their time is up and can be charged for any damages on the bike,” Tracy, a sophomore majoring in industrial engineering, wrote in an email. “If the bike is returned on time, and there are no damages, the program is free for anyone.”
Students and faculty are encouraged to keep staff members at the information desk informed regarding damage to the bikes.
“Every night we have maintenance checking the bikes for damage. If there is damage, whoever was the last to use the bike will be approached accordingly,” Tracy wrote.
The pilot program, however, is a test for a larger vision by the coordinators.
“November 1st, kicks off the Beta version of the Bike Share (Phase I),” Tracy wrote. “We plan to have 3 phases. The beta version is just to test the waters and see how everything is running. Because it is almost winter, we only have about 3-4 weeks to test out phase I – the Bike Share will not be open during the winter months.”
Phase II of the program involves expanding the amount of bikes and hubs as well as the possibility of electronic ways to sign in. Phase III will involve adding a bike route that directly travels along Vestal Parkway to Downtown Binghamton, according to Tracy.
Organizers said that the program will be limited during its initial run.
“We’re only offering [the bicycles] from noon to eight. We don’t have lights for the bikes yet, so we want to make sure people stay safe,” said Jesse Toder, logistics chair for the bike share and a junior majoring in industrial engineering.
As of Friday, six bikes were available.
“Once we’ve gotten this program off the ground and have more bikes, the school should take more notice and support us a bit more. Hopefully, we’ll get more space and money,” said Joseph Rimkunas, an organizer and a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering.
The program was originally planned for last semester, but was delayed because of insurance reasons.
“Since we are run by students, it was very hard (nearly impossible) to get private insurance. This year we are getting insured through the school via Auxiliary Services, but we are still a student run organization,” Tracy wrote.
Organizers said that they plan on expanding the program in future semesters to include more bikes and hubs.
“We also want to have stations at every community, especially Hillside,” Toder said. “But right now they’re just at the Engineering Building.”
The coordinators have also been working with students in the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering on new ways of signing up for bikes, similar to the bike share programs available in New York City and Paris.
“If you know the Citi Bikes [in New York City], they involve automated systems, but the companies that make them are ridiculously expensive. We’re working with a number of Watson engineering students as their senior capstone projects to build a system that is less expensive. So in the next few years we want an automated system that can be phased in,” said Markus Sher, liason for Watson students and the bike share and a sophomore double-majoring in mechanical engineering and English. “We have not decided whether to go with a hub system or have something built into every bike.”
Derek Smith, a senior majoring in Arabic, said he is looking forward to seeing the bike share on campus.
“I think the program is an awesome idea because it not only promotes a more active lifestyle but also allows for students to interact with the community in a more personal way,” Smith said. “I think that there needs to be more promotion of the program so that everyone is aware of the opportunities they have.”
Matthew Sausner, a sophomore majoring in computer science, said he was excited about the new program.
“That sounds really useful, it could help me get around. They need to actually expand it more, though,” he said.
Chris Mayer, a senior majoring in computer science, said the bike share would help out in the cold winter months.
“Sure I’d use the bike share, it will be sweet when it’s really cold and you wanna get around campus quicker,” Mayer said.
Others said they doubted a program so limited in scale.
“I don’t think I’d use it. I don’t see a need for it,” said Corey Vaccaro, a senior majoring in sociology. “I live off campus and have a car. It seems like something that’s a lot more useful for certain people on campus.”
A total of 19 riders borrowed bikes during the first weekend of the program’s implementation.
“The BU campus is not that big, so it is a good size to walk around, but still, with the bike, students can save some more time moving between classes and during lunch time,” said Aram Kim, a senior majoring in environmental studies. “I rented a bike last Friday and rode around the campus for one hour or so. It was fast, and the bike was in a good condition.”
Kyle Cheung, a senior majoring in geography, used the bike share to learn how to ride and noticed possible improvements.
“I went to ride on Friday and Saturday, 3 hours and 1 hours respectively,” he wrote in an email. “Overall, riding bikes are enjoyable, but I think the sizes of most of them need to be adjusted. I found that some of the seats were just a bit higher than they needed to be for me, making it hard to start learning.”