BikeShare program ready to roll

Jim Simon (left), sustainability engagement coordinator, and Chris Austin, assistant director of parking and transportation services.

Jim Simon (left), sustainability engagement coordinator, and Chris Austin, assistant director of parking and transportation services, show off the new GPS-enabled bikes.

Published June 19, 2014

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.

“This healthy and green initiative adds to the array of transit alternatives on campus. ”
Maria Wallace, Director
Parking and Transportation Services

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 intra-campus jaunts.

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 university.

“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 throughout campus.”

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 way.”

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 Wallace.

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 website.