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Bicycling

Students Launch NYU Bike-Share

10:12 AM EDT on May 21, 2008

wash_sq_park_bikes.jpg
The fence at Washington Square Park: a sign of latent demand for bike-share?

New York University may be the enemy of many East and West Villagers
over its plans to expand, but its students are finding other ways to
cut the school's environmental impacts: A group of undergrads and
grads are gearing up for a bike-share program in the fall.

Their plan, which is still being tweaked, aims for a fleet of 30
bikes available at two dorms. One residence, at 40 East 7th Street, was
selected because it's slated to become a "green house" with composting
and other environmentally friendly features, explained junior Lindsi
Seegmiller. They selected the other dorm, on Broome Street near Lafayette, because it has a floor devoted to green
living, known as the "eco-Broome."

The team of six undergrads and grad students expects to be
awarded $13,000 from Green Grants,
a two-year-old program run by NYU's sustainability task force.
Their project is one of several Green Grant winners the school plans to
announce this week.

The grant will cover a swipe card system that two graduate students
from Tisch's Interactive Telecommunications Program are developing. Also provided for: a maintenance program and the actual bikes, which will be rehabbed from abandoned bikes found on
campus. The fix-up effort will be coordinated in tandem with a bike maintenance program started last year by NYU student Emily Allen.

"It will get NYU to start thinking more about biking," said
Seegmiller, an environmental studies major working on the project.
"We're not a campus where you can walk to everything. Yes, we have the
buses, but I know the Transportation Committee for Sustainability
doesn't like those buses."

To use the bike-share system, students or faculty will first reserve a bike online. Then, at the dorm, they swipe a card, opening a cubby that holds the key for a U-lock attached to the bike they reserved. (Bike-share planners originally wanted a system where the swipe card could
automatically unlock the bike, but that was beyond their budget.)

The bike-share will also depend on volunteers who complete Allen's bike
maintenance workshop. The student mechanics will be responsible for monthly
inspections of the project's bikes. "People who live in Broome have a
community service requirement, so we hope they'll volunteer,"
Seegmiller said. "It's a lofty goal, but it's good to know how to fix
a bike and it's a community-building experience."

Riders will be required to take a bike safety workshop before
participating. Plus, Seegmiller believes students will feel safe
because, "A lot of it, I think, will be friends riding together."
Helmets will be included with each bike, along with a waiver about
personal responsibility for wearing them.

Though Seegmiller has heard other campus bike-shares have had problems
with stolen bicycles, she is hoping to prevent that by having the
students sign a waiver and swipe a card -- "kind of like a library card"
or one used for "campus cash" -- to unlock the bikes, which will be
charged if the students go over the allotted free time. (The share
time is to be determined.)

Seegmiller was heartened by the popularity of a weekend bike-share at the
Storefront for Art & Architecture last summer. She's hoping NYU's bike-share will
eventually expand to other dorms: "It would be amazing to see
something similar to Vélib."

Photo: krzysztof.poluchowicz / Flickr

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