InTrans / Apr 28, 2015

One bike, two bikes, shared bikes: Bike-sharing program in Ames, Iowa

Go! Magazine

Ames campus trafficposted on April 28, 2015

Hundreds of colleges across the country have implemented bike-share programs on their campuses. Look at New York University whose program began in 2010 and has grown from 30 bikes and two stations to now 80 bikes at 13 different stations. To date, NYU has over 3,000 registered bike share users. The goal of a campus bike share is simple: create fun and convenient ways to commute on campus. However, campuses must first do their homework. Before considering adding more bicyclists, safety measures to assess and improve possible unsafe interactions between on-campus walkers, bikers, and drivers must first be addressed. In looking at Ames, Iowa, a group of Iowa State University (ISU) students collaborated on a project in their Industrial Design 592 class. Their objective was to address how a bike-share program could alleviate transportation issues related to the record-breaking increase in enrollment at ISU, which went from 29,887 in 2011 to 34,732 in 2014—a 16 percent increase in just 3 years! As both a sustainability and transportation enhancement initiative, the class addressed current barriers surrounding the implementation of a bike-share program at ISU. To talk about some of their findings, I spoke with Jared Morford, a graduate student in the Department of Community and Regional Planning at ISU.

A conversation with Jared Morford

First off, I am curious as to why this project is identified as industrial design and not a planning course. Can you tell me a little bit about the class?

This was the third semester that this class has been offered. The main reason is that the Industrial design teacher, Mark Kargol, designed the class. He has a passion for bikes, so this class was a natural fit. This semester the class is doing a project to look at streets outside of campus to recommend bike-friendly changes and create a safer bike environment around Ames.

Tell me a little bit about where the idea for starting a bike share came from. Why do you think it would be a good idea or is needed?

Like I said, this was mainly Mr. Kargol’s idea. Interestingly, Iowa State (ISU) has had plans to diversify transportation since 1979 when the student population started to grow. Unfortunately nothing has really changed. One positive example on campus is Morrill Road because it has a clear bike path and does not interfere with the road. This needs to be done on the entire campus to make a bike share program safe and encourage more bicyclist commuters. In my opinion, adding more CyRide buses to help with the influx of students does not address a transportation problem, it addresses a CyRide problem. By also having a bike transportation option, ISU can diversify its transportation plan here on campus.

Anything really surprising come up during this project?

Some of the most interesting information came from a survey we conducted, which went out to 40,000 people and 2,008 people, or 5 percent, responded. The most surprising fact for us was that 79 percent people say they have ridden bike on campus at some point. We also found that people’s primary mode of transportation included 36 percent of people walking and 26 percent biking. This is huge considering most transportation planning at ISU has typically centered on bus traffic alone. Another important finding was that most people didn’t know if they could ride their bikes on the sidewalks on campus. It is actually illegal to ride on campus, though many people indicated that they do ride on sidewalks anyways.

We took these findings and decided three things were needed. One was for the plan to include sharrows and bike lanes (both shown in the picture on the right) on campus for people to safely cut through campus. Another piece of the puzzle was to invest in road signs to give instructions for where cyclists should go. The other piece was to have more easily accessible information in relation to bike safety laws on campus. For this we created a mock website for people to access information about rules and regulations for the bike share program.

What would a bike share program look like at ISU?

Before implementing this program, better bike infrastructure is needed on campus. This can include simple paint markings on the roads indicating bike lanes and implementing more signage. Secondly, a change in policy—like removing parking spaces on main roads and replacing them with bike lanes—would greatly improve a bike share’s success at ISU. From our findings we found that for a bike share program to be successful at ISU we would need 57 separate docks (capacity of 644 bikes total) and 322 bikes. The different stations would be solar powered and semi-portable in case other locations are determined to be more popular. From the data we had, we figured out where the greatest density of people was around campus and proposed bike racks in those places. For a bike share program to be successful, I believe the focus will need to transition from buses and cars to bikes and walking. In this, they will have to acknowledge how many people do get to campus using other forms of transportation.

How much would this cost?

We estimated that this would cost $25,000 for infrastructure improvements and initial implementation. The cost for the program would likely be supported through the student fees, much like how the CyRide campus bus system is funded.

Could this bike share program be expanded to all of Ames?

For this project, we had to come to terms with the scope for this project, which was just to focus on campus. We did not address off-campus housing, including residential dorms and university apartments because they were separate from core of university. Some of the overall concern with this program is how to track and hold people accountable for any damages or losses of bikes. At first, the idea was for people to use their ISU ID card to scan for the bikes. This would be a bit of an issue in trying to implement this for off-campus use, but can be easily solved. The City of Ames would have to acknowledge the bike share program as a priority for it to be expanded to the rest of the city.

By Jackie Nester, Go! Staff Writer

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