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Bike share program still in discussions


By Matthew Glowicki



If all goes smoothly, IU students will be able to rent bicycles from hubs across campus for a modest fee this fall.

Heed the word “if.”

IU Student Association executives have spent the last week meeting with Social Bicycle System founder and CEO Ryan Rzepecki, among others, in an effort to further develop a campus bike share program.

The system, referred to as SoBi, was founded in 2008 and is based in New York City. It is a public bike-share system that uses GPS, a mobile app and a secure lock, according to its website. Students would be able to check out a bike for a period of time from various locations on campus, using secure pin numbers to unlock the built-in bicycle lock. The system is intended for short commuting trips throughout the day as opposed to longer recreational rides.

Exact details regarding pricing and locations are still being worked out, as no contract is currently in place. IUSA’s tentative plans include a subscription-based payment system and bike hubs located both on and close to campus.

“This would be a great school for the program,” Rzepecki said. The biking culture is very strong. Conditions are great for cycling.”

Both the iUnity IUSA administration and its predecessor, the Btown administration, included bike sharing in their election platforms. The program’s future, however, has changed a number of times this school year.

Junior Neil Kelty of the iUnity administration first contacted Rzepecki last August. Work then began to bring the system to campus.

This fall, Kelty had said the bike share program would not be ready by the end of the current IUSA term. Weeks later, the IUSA Twitter feed declared, “Get ready for bikes this spring!!!” Similar messages touting the bike program’s imminent arrival on campus followed throughout the winter and spring.

The program’s delay was not caused by IUSA but rather due to changes in the design of SoBi bicycles, which was actually spurred by IU’s interest in the program, Rzepecki said.

Rzepecki’s new design features a lock welded to the bike’s frame and a shaft drive instead of a chain drive. Since January, it has passed the industrial design phase and is currently being tested by mechanical engineers.

When junior Justin Kingsolver was elected IUSA student body president, he said in March that despite liking the idea of the program, he wasn’t entirely sold on the logistics.

At that time, he saw three crucial requirements the program would need to meet: a guarantee of cost-effectiveness, the option for students to charge payments to their bursar bill and assurance that the program would be sustainable in future years.

As per the IUSA Constitution, all lame duck session contracts must be signed by both the outgoing and incoming student body president, meaning that both outgoing president Michael Coleman and Kingsolver would have had to agree upon the program.
Kingsolver wanted to further explore the proposals and wait until Rzepecki visited campus this week.

Being in Bloomington allowed Rzepecki to gather all parties with a vested interest in the initiative and get them on the same page, as well as learn campus relationships and politics, he said.

“It was about making sure everyone was comfortable with what their role is. We’re getting close,” he said.

Yet there are still roadblocks to the implementation of the bike share program, as Kingsolver looks for the “most favorable terms for IUSA and students.”

These terms are still being negotiated. Rzepecki will submit to IUSA a first draft of a contract within one to two weeks. From there, the program terms could be accepted, or rejected and the contract process would start over again.

“There’s still a lot of things that could delay us,” Rzepecki said.

Kingsolver noted that discussions concerning the program involve more than just IUSA and SoBi. Those present at this week’s meetings included IU Parking Operations, the Division of Transportation Services, IU administrators, local bike shop representatives, IU Outdoor Adventures, the IU architect’s office and the City of Bloomington.

Successful passing of a contract requires cooperation by and the satisfaction of these groups, Kingsolver said.

As of now, if a contract is signed, Kingsolver hopes to have all infrastructures in place on campus by the first or second week of September, kicking off a one-year trial program with 50 bikes.

“With everything we’re hearing, it could be a feasible program,” he said.

If the contract were accepted, it would be one of SoBi’s first major programs.

“It would be an important milestone.,” Rzepecki said. “It’s pretty important to get these out on the street, to move from concept to
reality.”

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