With the Little 500 race on campus and bike lanes on many streets in town, Indiana University and Bloomington are generally thought of as a bike-friendly community.
Despite this reputation, Bloomington currently offers no bicycles for public use, which puts it somewhat behind the curve of the 119 other communities nationwide that provide such an option.
Thankfully, the city is taking steps to remedy this issue and plans to establish a bike-share program that will be particularly useful to students. Additionally, Bloomington plans to contract with a private company to mitigate the cost to taxpayers.
For those living off campus, being able to pick up a bike from a station downtown or elsewhere around Bloomington and drop it off on campus could considerably shorten the commute to class.
Because bike-share programs are ordinarily impeded by the limited number of docking stations from which the public can access bicycles, the Editorial Board suggests that the IU-Bloomington bike-share system proceed with a dockless option by linking bike racks on campus to geo-sensors that could check in the bikes from any registered rack.
Currently, the city and the University are weighing their options for private contractors who could fund the program. We suggest Zagster, whose recent partnership with Penn State University could provide a useful starting point from which to build the Bloomington model.
Zagster has also successfully partnered with Carmel, Indiana, for a municipal bike-share system, and we consider this success encouraging because it shows the company has experience working in both campus and city environments.
In addition to contracting research, the city is also carefully considering which specific program features to implement. Project Consultant Jane St. John told the Indiana Daily Student Bloomington will study the Zagster model in Carmel, as well as the Pacers bicycles in Indianapolis, for inspiration.
The Editorial Board fully supports St. John’s approach, and we believe there are a few key factors Bloomington should consider as it prepares to launch its bike-share program.
If there are available funds, Bloomington could do well by emulating Indianapolis’ EveryBody Rides program, which offers discounted rental prices to low-income residents, ensuring that the health and sustainability opportunities bicycling provides are not limited by socioeconomic class.
As we make a positive change for our campus and broader community, it is important that we do so in a way that puts our best foot – or perhaps our best wheel – forward. Personal and environmental wellness are not just the concern of those who occupy high tax brackets.
A second crucial issue that may almost seem too simple to mention were it not for previous failures is the importance of functional locking mechanisms and efficient maintenance procedures.
Due to difficulties with security and maintenance, Baltimore's bike-share program has been temporarily suspended until mid-October as the city attempts to address these issues by improving the locks and reevaluating communication features of the city’s bike-share app.
A greener community with healthier residents is a wonderful picture for the future of IU an Bloomington – a future that the Editorial Board believes is entirely possible if the bike-share program is implemented well.