The Amherst Bike Share Project
Issue   |   Wed, 03/26/2014 - 00:53

The Amherst Bike Share is a project aimed at generating an on-campus student resource for bicycle rental. The goal behind its development is to promote sustainable travel and recreation to a student population that may not have the tools necessary to participate in an environmentally conscious platform of transportation.

The Bike Share we have planned will allow students to rent bikes for up to 24 hours at a time to take anywhere they please for free. From the start of the spring semester, Ben Walker and I have taken steps to build on the work we have done in the fall to upstart the program. With the help of AAS Senator Richard Park, who has made a campus Bike Share program one of his primary Senate goals, the two of us have made significant strides towards establishing a Bike Share system on campus.

At the end of last year the College told us that they had over fifty unused bikes that they would be willing to grant the project. Unfortunately, upon our return to campus this winter we found that Amherst had donated all of the usable bikes to charity. Although the bikes were attributed to a good cause, this was a large step backwards for the Bike Share team. However, we have appropriately retooled our design in order to reach our goal of setting up a trial Bike Share program by the end of the semester.

This semester we have drafted an operating action plan and business proposal that will be presented to the student board and administration for funding. This business plan includes a budget that would cover the purchasing of ten to fifteen new bikes for the program. In addition, we have received verbal approval from the Amherst College Facilities Department to set up bike racks on either side of Stearns and James dormitories. Two weeks ago, we secured access to a room in the basement of James to use as an operating station, storage space and mechanical shop. We plan to operate our program out of this central location and hope it will provide students with an accessible platform for bicycle rental. Moreover, we have been conducting market research over the past few weeks via online surveys that aim to assess the on-campus demand for a Bike Share program. Through a preliminary 150 responses, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive: 94% of Amherst students polled have expressed explicit desire for a college bike share program.

Two weeks ago, we also met with the Amherst College Information Technology team in order to explore the possibility of creating an automated system for the Bike Share. Although they could not provide any immediate solutions, we were successfully directed to the Five College library managers to discuss the prospects of implementing the automated library system, called “ALIF”, to the Bike Share project. This program allows us to rent out bikes just like renting a book. The ALIF system gives us the infrastructure we need to record bike rentals electronically and apply late fees. We also recently met with Beth Carmichael at the Five College Risk Management Center to begin drafting a waiver to be used to cover the liability process for the Bike Share. With luck, we will have a waiver suited to the project by the end of spring break. Additionally, we just finished our first draft of our official business plan, and we plan to present to the AAS and the rest of Administration after spring break to receive approval for the project. We look forward to what is to come and to continue on our path towards environmentally conscious student travel. If you have any questions about the Bike Share please email rneel16@amherst.edu, bwalker16@amherst.edu or rpark16@amherst.edu!

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