Community Spotlight: Rutgers University Bike Rental Pilot Program

The Rutgers University Rental Fleet

Throughout New Jersey, bicycle use is increasing. Local communities, and now Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey are establishing programs and policies that are encouraging alternatives to driving. Although these programs are not a direct result of the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s Complete Street’s Policy, they are providing the policy with a solid foundation in the push for better accommodations for bicyclists on roadways throughout the state.

This fall, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, will roll out its first campus-wide Bike Rental Pilot Program. The Bike Rental Pilot program is a joint effort being run through the Rutgers Department of Transportation Services and the Green Purchasing Cooperative. It is currently being sponsored by the Rutgers Energy Institute. The program will provide students and faculty at the New Brunswick campus the opportunity to rent from an initial fleet of 150 Jamis bicycles at a small cost. The purpose of the Pilot Program is to measure the need, benefit, accessibility, cost, liability and feasibility of launching an expanded rental program in the future. This program is one initiative Rutgers University is promoting in its efforts to become a more sustainable and green University.

The Bike Rental Pilot Program intends to promote bicycling as a legitimate transportation mode with goals of reducing the number of cars on campus, reducing overload on peak bus times, and reducing overall emissions. Traditionally, bicycling at Rutgers has been dwarfed and complicated by the vast numbers of cars and other commuters throughout the New Brunswick area. According to a 2010 Rutgers University Transportation Survey, only 1% of the university population commuted to campus by bike.  With the launch of this new and exciting program, Rutgers aims to change the percentage of those who commute to campus—or across campus—by bike by integrating bicycles into the campus community.

One of the key concerns in providing bicycles to students and faculty is bicycle saftey. So the NJ Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center within the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, in addition to other University agencies, have offered professional expertise and assistance into addressing bicycle safety issues.  Thus, information and videos on bicycling tips and safety will be made available online to all users.

The Jamis Earth Cruiser

The bicycle selected for Rutgers Bike Rental Program is the Jamis Earth Cruiser (see photo). This particular bicycle is designed to be extremely user friendly and comfortable to ride.  Some of its other features include:

  • Light weight aluminum frame
  • Upright seating position
  • Front and rear lighting
  • Fenders to prevent splashing
  • Chain guard to prevent clothing catching in drivetrain
  • Safety bell

The launch of the Rutgers Bike Rental Program will put Rutgers among other large universities that support and encourage bicycling through bike rental and bike-share programs, such as the University of California, University of Colorado, and the University of Wisconsin.  Bike rental and bike share programs within universities use various models of provision and range drastically in scale. The University of California-Irvine’s ZotWheels is one of the most high-tech and successful university-wide bike share programs in the U.S. The system is fully automated with bicycles using Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology in order to track lost or stolen bicycles, which are available from kiosks on campus.

One program similar to Rutgers’ new program is the recently launched bike rental program at Texas A & M. Students at Texas A & M can reserve a bicycle online for use for an entire semester, or on a monthly basis. The program was conceptualized to address problems with parking, commuting students, and also to provide a transportation alternative to the limited public transit options available in the area. Like many of the universities listed, others across the U.S (and globally) are providing support to increase bicycling on campus. The League of American Bicyclists has even created a Bike Friendly University program, which ranks universities in the U.S. on bicycle engineering, encouragement, education, enforcement, and evaluation/planning (the Five E’s). Currently holding the top spots for 2011 with platinum and gold rankings are: Stanford University; University of California-Davis; and University of California-Santa Barbara. Though Rutgers University is currently unranked, the implementation of the Bike Rental Pilot Program will put Rutgers on the path towards becoming a bike friendly university.

 Are you a Student In Need of a Bicycle?

To rent a bicycle at Rutgers, travel to this website: http://bikes.rutgers.edu. The website provides a link where each user can register, make a reservation, and submit payment for a bicycle by using their RUID. The cost of rental is $10.00 per month, or $25.00 for the entire semester.  Each user will have to sign a liability waiver prior to picking up a bicycle.  The program has several central locations around campus where students and faculty can pick up their rental bike after the online reservation has been made. The program is also looking to provide docking platforms at off campus locations such as the mayor’s office, the New Brunswick train station, and the new Gateway building.

Once a user has picked up their bicycle, they are free to cycle for the duration of the rental period. Any damages to the bicycle while in use will be charged to the student. If a bicycle is in need of repair, the user can flag it online and request service. Each bicycle is equipped with a RFID tag; this technology serves to locate a lost or stolen bicycle which helps to protect students from the cost of replacing an entire bicycle. The integration of bicycle technology and the web interface is key in making the bike rental program a success by enabling quick response and action to requests for rentals and addressing potential maintenance problems.

Also available at Rutgers’ website is bicycle safety information and tips, links to local bike routes, as well as other bicycling resources provided by the NJDOT and others throughout New Jersey. The website also provides the Rent A Bike flyer (pictured above) to print for users to share throughout campus. The launch of the Bike Rental Pilot program is an exciting way to get bicycles into the hands and under the feet of students, staff and faculty at Rutgers.

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