Will Private Bike Share Become A College Campus Fixture?
On Monday, The Daily Emerald, a University of Oregon student newspaper, reported that there will be a new bikeshare program on campus. The city of Eugene, partnering with the university and the local transit agency, announced a system that will feature 300 bikes across 35 dock stations. The public program is mostly funded by a $1.3 million grant from the state transportation commission, although the school chipped in $197,000.
Ten years ago, this might have seemed like pioneering stuff. But in 2017, the idea that a state government should fund a college bikeshare system is as antiquated as hailing a cab by hand rather than phone. Instead, bikeshare systems have, like other sharing economy trades, exploded in the U.S., becoming both private and self-sustaining. Colleges and universities have not missed out on the trend–and in fact seem perfectly suited for it.
The leader in pedaling the industry forward for higher education, specifically, has been Zagster. The Cambridge-based bikeshare firm was launched in 2007, and its specialty has become managing systems for the campus format, including both corporate and university campuses. In 2016, Zagster partnered with the carsharing company Zipcar to roll out systems at 15 additional universities. The company now operates at 21 colleges and universities in total, according to its website, from gargantuan Ohio State on down to tiny Lehigh. Another company, On Bike Share, specializes in configuring systems for university campuses.
These companies join a private bikeshare revolution that’s occurring throughout urban America generally. Limebike, Spin, GoBike and Ofo are some of the companies increasing their market share in dense cities like Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, DC. These companies have innovated more than the public-private bikeshare systems they seem primed to replace, building, for example, “dockless” features that let customers find bikes by phone, and drop them off wherever they please, rather than at select stations. Private options have also, in some cases, been far cheaper.
All the same, university campuses have precisely the spatial layout needed to expand this bikeshare momentum. As I noted recently for Forbes, many campuses, because of their central locations yet wide distances between buildings, have already become hubs for so-called “micro-transport.” These are small, flexible mobility options–skateboards, rollerblades, segways, etc.–that require less complicated parking and storage. Bicycles are another form of micro transport common on campuses; the growth of private bike share shows that they can scale there, just as they have in cities.
University administrations are figuring this out about bikeshare, too, with U of Oregon being the latest example. Hopefully they’ll soon learn that, by choosing the private option instead, they won’t have to pay anything for it, either.
[This article was originally published by Forbes.]
Scott Beyer owns and manages The Market Urbanism Report. He is a roving cross-country journalist who writes regular columns for Forbes, Governing Magazine and HousingOnline.com.