Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Vending machine based bicycle sharing on a college campus

http://www.parking.uci.edu/zotwheels/images/photos/system/photo5.jpg
Apparently exists at only two colleges/universities in the county, first at Saint Xavier University in Illinois, and now at the University of California Irvine. See "No wheels? No problem" from the Newport Beach Daily Pilot, and the press release from the University. From the press release:

Sometimes great ideas are born in unlikely places. The inspiration for ZotWheels, UC Irvine’s new bike-sharing system, came to Ronald Fleming in a Palm Springs-area outlet mall, where the interim director of Parking & Transportation Services had gotten a stroller for his young daughter from a self-serve vending station. It occurred to him: Why couldn’t we do this with bicycles?

Less than two years later, Fleming’s brainstorm has spawned the first automated bike-sharing program in the University of California system. With its launch Friday, Oct. 9, students, faculty and staff will be able to borrow a bicycle with the swipe of a membership card.

Bicycle Retailer has a piece also, "Anteaters Go by Bike," with more photos of the launch.

In the county I am working in there are a number of colleges and universities, including a couple that are very large, and already I have been pushing the idea of campus (+ maybe hospital) bicycle sharing programs. Generally the universities are starting to realize that it is expensive and requires a lot of land to support parking.

This ought to be an issue across Maryland's institutions of higher education, public and private for that matter. For example, this article from Towerlight student newspaper, "Congestion fills Towson’s traffic patterns" demonstrates the dominance of the automobile in student thinking, although perhaps as some institutions transition from a "commuter campus" to more of a "residential" university setting, I suppose this will change.

(I had a letter in the Gazette a couple years ago about University of Maryland at College Park's focus on parking--at least at the time, and recognizing that they have an extensive bus system which has begun to allow non-student College Park residents to ride on the system. See "Parking district plan is half of the solution.")

Students are still concerned with how much unnecessary time it takes them to get to classes. Will Lawrence, a senior mathematics major, lives five minutes from campus but it takes him at least 30 to 45 minutes to get into a garage.

“[On Thursday] I didn’t get to class on time because the Union and Glen garages were both full to the brim and I couldn’t find a parking spot,” Lawrence said. “I’ve definitely had issues with getting to class on time.”

Why is someone who lives 5 minutes from campus driving a car to get to class?

But as I mentioned the other week ("Public (and private) universities and transportation planning"), it doesn't appear that the requirements for regular campus master planning updates for public institutions of higher education in Maryland include transportation demand management and coordination with the local government planners. You have to have an enlightened campus in order for such a focus to be included the way the system works now.

I haven't found out yet what the requirements for transportation management are for the institutions in the University of California system, because clearly they go beyond the provision of parking complemented by campus shuttle buses. There must be some requirements for balanced transportation planning, rather than an almost exclusive focus on parking for automobiles.

I mentioned before the Parking and Transportation Services unit at UC Davis being nationally known for wide ranging programming and planning beyond the automobile. UCD has begun serious research into travel behavior for students, faculty and staff, with a focus on supporting sustainable transportation practices, especially the reduction of automobile trips ("Results of the Fall 2007 UC Davis Campus Travel Assessment").

But UCI seems to have a similar approach in their unit, as this webpage on sustainable transportation makes clear. And I love their use of iconography and images on this. (It's an idea I'd like to "creatively borrow.")
Sustainable Transportation logos, webpage at the University of California, Irvine

Note that the Tulsa Townies free bicycle sharing program sponsored by the Saint Francis Health System has a similar kind of vending system, but using credit cards. The stations are in parks, and designed to promote recreational bicycle riding more than the use of the bicycle as a means of transportation for work and other trips and errands.

Note that UCI has a bike shop on campus and I heard that Temple University has one too. In fact, Temple is enhancing their commitment to promoting bicycling, see the press release, "Bike Temple aims to create a cycling-friendly culture." From the release:

Bike Temple has been created in conjunction with Fuji Bicycles; Breakaway Bikes & Fitness, a Center City bike shop; and the Neighborhood Bike Works, a nonprofit organization headquartered in West Philadelphia.

“The initiative was begun as a way to make Temple more bike friendly,” said Glenn Eck, assistant superintendent of grounds in the Office of Facilities Management and a member of the bicycle subcommittee under the Office of Sustainability. “We want people to see bicycles as a reliable, routine form of transportation, not just a toy, or solely recreational.”

A campus survey conducted last spring found that many are interested in riding a bike for commuting to and from campus, but are hesitant because they don’t know where to purchase a bike or where to have it serviced. Respondents also indicated a need to learn bicycling skills that would give them a comfort level riding on busy city streets.

From the Bike Temple website:

The Temple community is becoming increasingly bike oriented, and a geographical analysis of current faculty and staff addresses confirms the potential for increasing bicycles as a form of transportation, including commuting to Temple campuses; over 3,300 faculty and staff, or 31%, live within four miles of Main Campus, over 5,100, or 48%, live within six miles of Main Campus. While student address information is not readily available, we do know that there are thousands of students living a “bikeable” distance from the University.

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