For my senior project in Community Environment and Planning I have been researching how to increase cycling on and to the University of Washington campus. Through my preliminary research I looked into programs and services that the University and the City of Seattle currently offer the UW student. I discovered a gap in services provided to students who would consider commuting to campus by bike but lack access to one. There are (or were) two programs that offer student who do not own a bicycle access to one; Pronto Bicycle Share, and UWIld’s equipment rental.
Uwild offers students single day and weekend rentals at extremely low cost to students. Unfortunately UWild’s rental period makes the possibility of using their bicycles for commuting purposes impossible. Pronto is(was) aimed at providing hub to hub commuting services for short periods of time. This service targets users who live in close proximity to bicycle hubs and multimodal users who typically use bike share services to compliment another transportation mode. Unfortunately, due to the size and density of Pronto’s network of bicycle hubs, a majority of UW students are unable to use their services beyond cycling on campus.
Through my research I found that a bicycle library would be an appropriate solution to both provide users a bicycle for commuting purposes and to encourage users to invest in a bicycle at the end of the rental period. A bicycle library is an inexpensive or in some cases free, long term rental program. At other Universities, like the University of California, Santa Cruz Bike Lending Library, and University of Kentucky’s Wildcat Wheels, the bicycle rental period is typically over the duration of either a quarter or a semester. The purpose of this style of program is that it gives users an experience of bicycle ownership. The benefit of this experience is that users are given an ample time to explore how a bicycle can be used on a daily basis and how the bike can fit into their everyday life.
After discovering a program that could effectively target the user group I was concerned with, and impact future cycling use both at the University and through the rest of a user’s life, I redefined my project. My Senior Project is now to research, design, and implement and plan to bring a bicycle library to the University of Washington. At this point in my project, I am near the end of my research phase, in the midst of refining program features, and I have established a partnership with UWild in order to add the Bicycle Library to their current services. The final process I need to undergo is to achieve funding for the program through a CSF grant.
My point of contact with UWIld is the assistant director of the program, Matt Jensen. Through our conversations he has offered to house a fleet of bicycles (current capacity is 20 bicycles) and provide the administrative services of; maintaining the fleet, and facilitating the rental transactions. In addition to UWIld’s commitment to the program, I’m also attempting to work with EcoReps in order to, foster a consistent student presence in the program. Through an interview with Ted Sweeney, the active transportation specialist on campus I was advised that the biggest roadblock to a successful bicycle library program is student engagement. I hope that In partnering with EcoReps I can harbor a student body committed to the promotion of this sustainable project and can work to create a greater awareness of the program on campus. The final player I hope to incorporate into the program is the Office of Sustainability. I believe the office can provide additional administrative and financial support so that Uwild can focus primarily on logistical duties.
At this point in the project I am still working towards a refined cost analysis. In addition to the bicycle I still need to decide on the benefits of including certain accessories like bike racks, fenders, and locks. This week I am meeting with Ted and Matt to make final decisions concerning which accessories to include and what bike specifications are necessary. Next I plan to outreach to local bike manufactures/stores with the bicycle specifications we decide on and then partner with the bidder that gives us the best deal for our dollar. I’ve been advised by both Matt, and Ted, that for this program we should use bicycle from a single vendor. This ensures that the fleet will be recognizable, parts will be uniform (this allows us to buy in bulk, and ensures parts will be accessible when we need them), and it establishes a relationship with a seller which in turn reduces costs in the long run. In addition to purchasing the bikes and materials, I hope to also set up a fund for Uwild to use to purchase replacement parts and accessories for regular maintenance of the fleet and in the event of stolen bicycles.
I believe this project aligns with every element of the CSF’s goals. First, the environmental impact of cycling is a large component I addressed In my research. Cycling reduces the amount of cars on the road, doesn’t require environmentally intensive infrastructure, and contributes to higher density development, all of which reduces noise, air, and water pollution. Second, this project emphasizes a desire to foster student involvement through partnership with EcoReps and potentially other student run organizations like SAGE and the UW Bike Shop. Third, ultimately behavioral change is at the center of this program and an area I focused on heavily in my research. Giving users the experience of bicycle ownership is the best route to encouraging new users to cycle. EcoReps will also play a prominent role in advertising and educating students about the new service. Finally, through my research and outreach to organizations and departments I have created a sustainable partnership with Uwild and demonstrated my ability to obtain the technical knowledge to make educated decisions concerning this program.