By Cheryl Toomey, University Relations Graduate Assistant
UTC strives to be a bike friendly campus, and is now offering semester long bike rentals so that students can take advantage of the campus and surrounding areas.
The new program, Cycle Through the Semester, was inspired by requests by students to check out bikes from the existing program for extended periods.
“Before this, we had the bikes for recreation. You checked one out for the day or the weekend and had a fun time. But we’ve had a lot of students requesting to use the bike for a whole week or to continue using it every week. They needed to get around, not just to and from class and their room, but to their work and all over town,” said Anna Muller. “I think our university is conscious of trying to offer great resources to students and trying to be more environmentally friendly, so it’s great to be able to provide this resource to them. Not only is it greener, but it also is healthier, and it’s helping them have a different way to commute.”
The program currently has 30 Raleigh Cadent I8 bikes available to rent on a first come, first serve basis beginning the first week of class. Unlike the existing bike program, which offers bikes for day or weekend checkout, this program will offer bikes for the entire semester for a fee of $60.
“Bikes can be expensive to purchase, but this program makes them affordable to students,” says Muller. “$60 per semester is really good – it works out to about $15 per month, which covers the bike, helmets, locks, and lights, as well as any sort of maintenance.”
To rent one of the bikes, students can go to the outdoor equipment center on the second floor of the ARC, which is open from 10 am – 6 pm, Monday – Friday. Students need to have cash or check in hand to rent a bike. Students will not be required to pay a deposit other than the $60 rental fee, but they will be required to sign a waiver stating that they are responsible if the bike has major damage or is stolen.
As a part of the program, students will need to complete a safety clinic.
“We want to make sure students have some experience on how to safely ride on the roads. When you’re commuting, it’s typically a lot safer to be on the road than on the sidewalk, which wasn’t really meant for riding bikes. We decided that they should be really comfortable biking on the roads with cars and learning how to obey traffic laws,” said Muller.
UTC has partnered with Outdoor Chattanooga to teach the mandatory bike safety course, which will consist of an hour and a half of classroom time followed by a group ride. Students will have their choice of several times to take the safety course.
UTC Outdoors will also be offering maintenance courses covering topics like how to change a flat tire and how to do tune-ups to ensure gears are working. The bikes feature internal gears, making them low maintenance, but if a bike needs additional maintenance, UTC Outdoors will have staff with bike maintenance experience available during their operating hours. Students will be asked to bring their bike in for a mid-semester check-up and tune-up with UTC Outdoors staff to make sure it is in good working order.
Cycle Through the Semester initially launched on a limited trial basis in Spring 2014, based on similar programs at other universities such as UTK and ETSU.
The Environmental Task Force approved the initial funding of the project through the student green fee. They voted to fund the initial purchase of the bikes and equipment, as well as a part-time person to conduct safety workshops and keep the bikes in good working condition.
“The Environmental Task Force is always open to support student programs that support environmental stewardship, so we thought this was a good project to pilot here at UTC,” said Darger. “We hope to achieve a healthier student body, a greener campus, and improved environmental awareness. The Cycle through the Semester Program not only reduces miles driven, gasoline consumed, and emissions created by motor vehicles, but it also improves student health. If students can bike to campus, our parking situation is relieved, as well.”
UTC Outdoors also hopes to use a portion of the proceeds from the Cycle Through the Semester program to purchase a couple of new bikes each year, so that they can offer the bike rental program to increasing numbers of students.
Muller explains that Cycle Through the Semester is meant to be a companion, not competition, to the Bike Chattanooga program.
“We are very supportive of the Chattanooga bike share program, which offers year-long memberships to UTC students at a discount, but currently it is limited to the downtown area,” says Muller. “Those students who live outside the downtown area can’t access those as easily. They have to take a bus or get downtown before they could even get that bike. We have students in Hixson, Red Bank, and Highland Park that are close enough to ride their bike, but can’t easily access that program. Our new Cycle Through the Semester program reaches those outliers. These Bikes are intended to be more customized to the students’ needs – they’ll be available to them 24/7 anywhere they go.”
“We hope this program will provide students an alternative means to get to and from campus every day, encourage students to be more environmentally conscious, as well as promote a healthier lifestyle,” says Muller.
For more on Cycle Through the Semester, see the website.