Bicycle Program Picks Up Speed

By Kristen Manieri

Photo by Laura J. Cole

As “being green” becomes less a trendy catch phrase and more a way of life, environmentally friendly ideas are rapidly gaining traction—ideas like the Rollins Bicycle Library Program.

Now rolling into its third year, the Bicycle Library Program was conceived when a group of students in the EcoRollins organization and campus cycling enthusiasts saw the need for campus bicycle rentals. They put together a proposal for a “bike-recycling” program that would allow students, faculty, and staff to sign out bicycles for up to three days at a time.

It seemed like the perfect “green” concept for meeting the needs of students who wanted to run local errands, enjoy some outdoor exercise, and lessen their carbon footprint on the world. Thanks to the efforts of EcoRollins, Rollins Cyclists, Rollins Recycling, Facilities Management, and the Department of Environmental Studies, as well as financial support from the College, the Rollins Bicycle Library Program launched in fall 2009. “All in all, the program has been a huge success,” said Ann Francis ’01HH, administrative assistant in the environmental studies department and advisor to EcoRollins. “We began with eight bikes and added four more the following spring. So far, these bikes have been borrowed more than 500 times.”

Not only are the bicycles being used, but the system for managing the program is as well oiled as the bikes themselves. The Olin Library’s circulation desk, with its sophisticated data system for book checkout, was the obvious choice for overseeing bike checkout and returns. “Having to sign out bikes at the Olin and return them there makes participants more responsible,” Francis said. “Plus, the circulation desk is open seven days a week, making the program easily accessible to students.”

To keep the bikes safe and well maintained, a student-managed system was developed to keep track of them and ensure they are always in good working order. When a bike is returned, the circulation desk staff alerts student sustainability coordinators, one of whom is then assigned to inspect the bicycle’s brakes, lights, chain, tires, and seat before the bike is checked out again.

The bikes are currently stored on bike racks under the outdoor loggia at the Alfond Sports Center, so the weather is taking a toll on them. “The bikes are starting to show more wear than we’d like,” said Francis, who hopes a permanent indoor home for the bikes closer to the Olin Library is on the horizon. There is no cost for “renting” a bicycle, but borrowers must present their Rollins ID and sign a safety waiver form. Locks, pumps, and helmets are also available for use.

The program is getting a “thumbs up” from Rollins students, who make up of 99 percent of the borrowers. “I use a bike at least once a week,” reported Sam Stayman ’12. “Last semester, I used one for exercise totaling about 40 miles per week.” Yarissa Matos-Soto ’13 reserves a bike every couple of months for doing errands or simply riding around on a beautiful afternoon. “This program was needed,” Matos-Soto said. “There are many students who have little errands that need to be taken care of but have no transportation.”