DSG channels $5,000 to partially fund bike-sharing program
Following the disbandment of the Duke Bikes Program at the Arts Annex in August, Duke Student Government passed a budgetary statute of $5,000 to partially fund a campus-wide bike-sharing program.
The program—national bike-sharing service Zagster—allows students to check out and return bikes from on-campus racks. If all goes according to plan, the program—also partially funded by the administration—should fully launch July 1, said sophomore Lavanya Sunder, DSG vice president for services. She added that administrators are considering acquiring 50 bikes and signing a two-year contract, with the hope of extending their time on campus if successful.
“We’re in the procurement phase, so all of the contract and liability language needs to be finalized, and there are some technological [and] security issues that need to be resolved,” Sunder said.
Although much of the plan is not yet finalized, there have been no major roadblocks so far, Sunder noted.
Under the current plan, there will be three on-campus bike stations—one near the bus stops on East and West campuses and one near the Food Factory on Central Campus. The East and West campus locations will each hold 20 bikes, and the Central location will hold 10, Sunder said.
Students can subscribe to the service by paying a $20 yearly fee, Sunder noted. When a student is ready to access the bikes, they can check one out using their Duke card or a text code. Rental will last for about three hours before incurring late fees, though Sunder noted that the timing specifics have not been fully ironed out.
Regardless of where the bike is checked out from, bikes can be returned to any of the on-campus racks, Sunder said.
“A bike-sharing program, where people can ride bikes between classes, is perfect for students who don’t want to wait for a bus, or are in a hurry, or want to grab a burrito at Chipotle before heading to East for a class,” Sunder said.
Many of Duke’s peer schools—such as Yale University, Cornell University and the University of Chicago—have already implemented Zagster, Sunder said. Several other universities are planning 2014 launches.
Administrators have been very supportive of the new program, Sunder said. They have looked to secure necessary funding and finalize contractual language.
Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta said he is hopeful that the contract with Zagster will be successful, but there is always a chance that the agreement will not be finalized.
In an email Monday, Moneta noted that if the contract does not pan out, the $5,000 will be returned to DSG.
DSG Executive Vice President Nikolai Doytchinov, a junior, noted that he feels that DSG and administrators are partners in bringing this bike program to fruition.
“I think the bike program is really a valuable program for students,” he said.
Doytchinov noted that many students were very frustrated when the bike program in the Arts Annex was disbanded.
“If there were a bike-sharing program, 68 percent of students who do drive between campuses would take the bike instead,” Sunder said, referring to a survey sent out last Fall. “I think that is huge for sustainability.”
After comparing several different bike-sharing programs—with a variety of price points and service models—Sunder determined that Zagster was the best fit for Duke’s campus.
One of the issues with the old Arts Annex bike program, she noted, was that it was not under the direct supervision of any one department.
“Duke had to house the bikes, pay employees to check them out and manage the program,” she said. “That sort of lack of logistical infrastructure compounded the lack of a set funding source.”
Ideally, Sunder noted, bike-sharing at Duke would be through an all-inclusive program that would not require much oversight from the University.
“Zagster fit this mark best, as it markets itself as a company that, for one price, will handle the installation, maintenance, liability, customer support and marketing for the bikes,” Sunder said. “They also have really high-tech bikes and a very comprehensive maintenance policy, which were definite plusses.”
She noted that the program’s prices are very reasonable for the services that they provide, adding that she believes that bike sharing is the future of bike services because it allows more flexibility than purchasing a bike.
“Duke’s campus is perfectly designed for a bike-sharing program,” Sunder said. “We have multiple campuses that are just far away from each other where walking seems unreasonable, but driving your own car, as it should be, is a hassle.”