Student bike share program revamped

The new bike share program allows Elis to rent bikes for up to a full semester (for $60).
The new bike share program allows Elis to rent bikes for up to a full semester (for $60). Photo by Paul Cohen.

Eight hours after the Yale Student Environmental Coalition launched a new version of its Bike Rental Program on Tuesday, not a single bike remained unclaimed.

In an effort to increase participation, YSEC and the Yale College Council overhauled the bike program over the summer: When the program first debuted last fall, students paid an annual fee of $10 and could borrow a bike for one day at a time. Now, the rental price has increased — to $5 a day, $30 a month or $60 a semester — but students can rent out bikes for up to a full semester. And unlike last year, the bikes are now distributed by YSEC itself, rather than through residential college master’s offices, while the YCC has taken a back seat.

YSEC co-chair Charles Zhu ’11 said last year’s bike share system had shortcomings.

“In practice, because we didn’t have a large enough labor force and there was very little oversight, some people kept the bikes for longer for than a day, sometimes egregiously so,” he said.

Now, the program allows students to rent one of 25 Fuji Crosstown 4.0 bicycles, and the rental fees include locks, access to tools and on-call maintenance. To rent a bike, students must contact program manager Brian Tang ’12 to arrange a meeting spot. Tang will then meet the student somewhere on campus with the keys to the bike, in exchange for the rental fee and, for a semester rental, a $60 deposit. Zhu said YSEC had to increase its rental fees for financial reasons.

Last year, YSEC proposed the plan for a bike-sharing program to the YCC in order to get funding. The proposal was approved, and the YCC provided $5,000 to purchase the 25 bikes still being used this year.

When the program piloted in October of last year, organizers advertised outside of the Freshman Barbecue, encouraging students to register. But after the first day of registration, 26 of the 49 registrants were YCC members.

This year, the YCC has taken a step back, YCC president Jeff Gordon ’12 said, and is not providing financial support. The organizers of the Bike Rental Program sent all undergraduates an e-mail Tuesday to announce the revised program, asking interested students to respond to the e-mail to sign up.

Six students interviewed had mixed opinions about the program.

“I personally don’t like to ride bikes,” Austin Jung ’14 said. “But I can see the program being useful for someone who likes bike riding, or who has classes on Science Hill.”

Giuliana Berry ’14 worried that the rental fees were too high. She said $30 per month is too expensive, and that, in the long-run, it would be worth it to buy a bike instead.

So far, though, Zhu said the program’s new efforts appear to be successful. Only hours after Tuesday’s e-mail was sent out, 70 students had already signed up, he said.

He added that the Bike Rental Program is in the process of securing more bikes to add to the fleet and ultimately hopes establish a permanent headquarters, but that YSEC does not want to raise prices too much.

“We want to … encourage people to use more bikes and to rediscover biking after sometimes 10 years of not doing it,” Zhu said.

And if the bikes’ continue to be as popular as they have so far, even YCC members might be out of luck, Gordon said.

“I’ll definitely look into it for the daily rentals, but the program is already so popular that there might not even be space for me to rent,” he joked.

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