It was fall of 2012. Leaves fell from the trees and scattered around Bagwell, Becton and Berry halls as residents pedaled through the Quad on their bikes. Brian Iezzi, now a senior studying textile engineering, had his bike stolen from him the first day he moved in, and Carlos Vega, a Resident Adviser in charge of the Quad Sustainability Committee, had a bike without brakes, so the two could not join in the fun.
The two residents searched for places to access bikes on campus and discovered WolfWheels, a program through Outdoor Adventures that had rental bikes for $99 per semester. However, Iezzi said renting the bikes on a daily basis was inconvenient because of the distance from the Quad to Carmichael — where the bikes were stored.
All of their struggles led to something great. By thinking and doing, Iezzi and Vega applied for a “Think Outside the Brick” grant to begin a bike share pilot program free for residents of the Honors Village. WolfWheels supported the program and donated six bikes as well as software to check the bikes out from the 24-hour desk. Outdoor Adventures also provided liability insurance.
“We won $500 and used this to purchase helmets and buy repair supplies to help offset the repair costs that WolfWheels was covering for us,” Iezzi said. “Carlos and I spent all spring 2013 figuring out how residents would check out bikes and becoming registered members.
The two innovators spoke with other successful bike share programs, including the founders of Tar Heel Bikes at UNC, and developed a self-sustaining system.
The Quad bike program launched fall 2013. To register, residents had to attend safety and training workshops to learn about the purpose of the pilot program, proper bike safety and how to check out a bike. After registration, residents could check out bikes any time from the 24-hour service desk and keep them for up to five hours. The program was free to Quad residents.
“We had two very successful pilot years from fall 2013 to spring 2015,” Iezzi said. “In spring 2014, we received funding from the Sustainability Fund to build a bike share program at Wolf Village and at the libraries with the help of people at both these areas.”
Although the program was fully funded, both partners backed out and the expansion was never realized. However, the team behind Quad Bikes still purchase new bikes, repair equipment and two Bitlocks to explore the possibility of using them in the program.
Cyrus Homesley, a junior studying physics, started using the program when his bike was stolen during Winter Break his freshman year. “I found the program easy to use, and the bikes provided suited my needs sufficiently,” he said. “Rather than buying a bike, I decided to depend on the Quad bikes instead.”
His second year, Homesley helped Iezzi promote the program at Packapalooza and club fairs. “Now I mainly help with on-campus promotion,” he said. Homesley is also on standby to do maintenance with any bikes that need it.
The program itself offers benefits to students of all biking levels by providing a steppingstone for novice bikers as well as basic bike resources and tools such as pumps, tire levers, lights, helmets, etc. so students can begin biking without the full commitment of buying a bike. The program also allows residents to leave their bikes at home, diminishing the bike clutter outside residence halls.
Despite the benefits, Homesley still has mixed feelings about the program. He thinks the bike share model is “fantastic in principle and in application” and that the program has great potential because more bike share stations around campus would allow students like Patrick Connor to take one-way trips from their residence halls to the library. Conner, an RA on East Campus and a junior studying fisheries and wildlife sciences, had an overall positive experience with the program because he always had access to a bike throughout the day.
“I would be able to check a bike out for a few hours to get to my classes,” he said. “Not only did this decrease the time spent getting to and from classes, but it was a good workout.”
Since the Quad Bikes program has been so successful with residents, Homesley and Iezzi would like to expand the program throughout all of campus. The problem is that the bikes are only currently deployed at the Quad, which is represents a small percentage of the student population. Many students are also unaware of the program’s existence, which Homesley hopes to change.
“The challenge is we can’t bring students into the Quad to show them this, nor does explaining what a bike share is magically convince them of its necessity,” Homesley said.
Recently, the Quad Bikes program has had difficulty finding liability coverage for all residents who would like to use a bike. The issue should be solved soon, but until then, the program is taking a hiatus. The program is establishing a partnership with campus partners who are willing to sponsor the bike share program. It has not yet been decided what the sponsorship will entail, but the leaders of the Quad Bikes program have high hopes the program will be up and running again soon.