If you ever find yourself wishing you had a bike for an afternoon ride on the MKT trail or a downtown grocery run, there’s already a great, free solution – the Mizzou BikeShare program, launched this semester by the Missouri Students Association and the Sustainability Office.
The pilot program at the MU Student Center offered 20 bikes for free checkout by MU students. Even without advertising, the early reception has been outstanding. The Student Unions have logged more than 250 signed waivers and 1,000 checkouts, according to a Maneater article. Since its late-August launch, the program has operated at 90% of capacity, and is planning to double the number of bikes available.
A survey has been sent out to all those who participated in the pilot to gather usage and demographic data. James Jordan, Sustainability Coordinator for the Residence Halls Association, says he expects the results to confirm the trends they’ve already noticed. So far, the bikes have proven especially popular among international students, who often borrow them on weekdays for groceries, errands, and other tasks. Weekend bikers tend to represent a different crowd, mostly locals setting out for a day on the MKT trail.
Jordan says the checked-out bikes are a cheaper, safer, and more convenient alternative for exchange students and others who usually buy bikes from surplus auctions. With BikeShare, the students don’t have to worry about buying or selling their bikes, and the BikeShare bikes are maintained in safe condition.
In the future, BikeShare organizers would like to see another spot from which bikes can be checked out, possibly a dorm further from the center of campus. Another improvement they’re considering is adding lights to the bikes for safer night-time use, and possibly expanding the program to groups beyond MU.
Since winter conditions will reduce bike demand (and increase wear-and-tear on bikes left in the rack), the program plans to store 2/3s of its bikes through the winter months, then reopen fully in March. As we all know, however, winter in Missouri is highly unpredictable; the next warm winter day could be a perfect chance to borrow a bike yourself!