Jim Simon (left), sustainability engagement coordinator, and
Chris Austin, assistant director of parking and transportation
services, show off the new GPS-enabled bikes.
Starting this spring, you won’t need to BYOB—bring
your own bicycle, that is—to UB. The Office of Sustainability
has been working with the Office of Parking and Transportation
Services, Buffalo BikeShare and a New York-based company to launch
a beta test of an innovative new bicycle-sharing program.
BikeShare at UB harnesses GPS technology, allowing users to
track and rent a bicycle with the convenience of a mobile device or
computer during the beta test phase. Bicycles also can be rented
from the keypad interface on the bicycle.
The idea is to give people a healthy, green option for short
trips around campus, with the goal of promoting better health and
reducing the amount of vehicular traffic, especially for
UB is the first university in the country to work with this new
GPS technology to launch a bicycle-sharing program.
“While our new bike-sharing program blends technology and
sustainability in an innovative and pioneering way for higher
education, it also demonstrates how the university can partner and
integrate with our broader community, as well as leverage our
student and faculty research to create solutions that move us
toward a sustainable future,” says Ryan McPherson, UB’s
chief sustainability officer.
An undergraduate planning studio helped develop an early
“Radial Bikes” plan, demonstrating the need for a new
and innovative bicycle-sharing program for the city and the
“We are thrilled to launch BikeShare at UB. This healthy
and green initiative adds to the array of transit alternatives on
campus,” adds Maria Wallace, UB’s director of parking
and transportation services. “There has been tremendous
growth in bicycling, evident by the number of bicycles seen
Using the Buffalo BikeShare site, a user can locate and reserve
the nearest bicycle, and then has 15 minutes to get to and unlock
the bike by typing in the PIN code provided. Once the bike is
unlocked, the rider places the U-lock in the holster on the bike
and has free use for the first hour. Each subsequent hour costs $3,
with a maximum reservation of 24 hours. In order to use BikeShare,
faculty, staff and students must pay an annual fee of $30, payable
only by credit card. For the beta phase, the fee is reduced to a
flat fee of $10.
To return the bike and complete the transaction, the user simply
returns it to one of the BikeShare bicycle racks on the North or
South campus and locks it up using the lock provided. Other users
can then see that the bicycle is available and can go to that
particular hub and rent it. Riders can lock the bike up when they
reach their destination and unlock it using the same PIN code. The
code will reset when the transaction is completed.
Riders who stray out of the designated area or return the bike
to a BikeShare rack that’s out of the coverage zone are
subject to penalty fees.
Jim Simon, the sustainability engagement coordinator at UB,
offers this example of the program’s usefulness: “Say
you have to go from the Natural Sciences Complex to Alumni Arena.
You can go online to see that there’s a bike at Talbert, you
type in a pin code on the bike, it unlocks and you’re on your
On the South Campus, users could check out a bicycle at a hub at
Hayes Hall and zip over to Harriman Hall for a bite to eat.
A sister program is being tested on the Buffalo Niagara Medical
Campus under the direction of Buffalo BikeShare. “The staff
there really makes a conscious effort to support innovation. The
campus has quickly become a laboratory for transportation models in
a way that really has no equal, at least in the U.S.,” says
Buffalo BikeShare’s Creighton Randall.
The bicycles are standard cruiser bikes with an internal drive
shaft—to decrease the number of times that a rider’s
pants or socks get grease on them—with a metal basket on the
front. If, during your trip, you get a flat tire or experience some
type of mechanical issue, simply press the “Repair”
button on the keypad. That will alert the BikeShare maintenance
staff that there’s a problem with the bike and a staff member
will come fix it.
Each bike comes equipped with a solar-powered, GPS-enabled
keypad system affixed at the back. Aside from allowing users to
find out where the nearest available bicycle is, the GPS system on
each bike will be of great use to UB’s parking and
transportation office. “These GPS-enabled bikes will provide
rich data for future decisions on routing, racks and hubs as we
continue to build upon our bicycling network,” says
That network already has drawn national praise. In fall 2012,
the League of American Bicyclists designated UB a “Bicycle
Friendly University” at the bronze level for its strong
commitment to cycling.
For more information or to sign up, visit the BikeShare at UB