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What Your Campus can learn from Villanova’s FREE Bike Share Program
Biking

What Your Campus can learn from Villanova’s FREE Bike Share Program

Way out in the boondocks of suburbia, there is a college campus.

This campus is only a few square miles. The surface parking lot across the street is nearly the same size of the main campus. In fact, planning has recently been finalized for an expansion of the campus, which will turn this surface parking lot to increase housing capacity to 85% of the undergraduate population. So much wasted space set aside for idle cars, and we accepted this as the way things are.

That college campus is Villanova.

villanova university
Photo: Villanova University; Main Line Media News

Why did we need this massive parking lot in the first place?

A great number of Villanova students commute to campus by car. Without getting into the details of how poorly the area around Villanova is designed for biking commuters (Good luck riding in any of the arterial roads of the Bryn Mawr/Villanova area without getting honked at tirelessly by cars), parking on campus has always been a big issue.

The solutionReplace driving students with bike riding students!

In order to help, our sustainability committee wanted to bring a bike share program to campus to help relieve congestion and provide transportation for students who don’t have a bike on campus.

Not Your Usual Bike Share

Many people have questioned why we did not try to implement a program similar to Indego. Given the size of our campus and student population, this route wouldn’t have been economical. Instead, we partnered with a local organization called Devereux, to bring refurbished bikes to campus that students could borrow for either a semester or full year. Devereux is one of the oldest and largest nonprofit providers of behavioral health care in Montgomery County. We purchased the bikes from their Wayne bike shop, which is a part of Devereux’s Pennsylvania Adult Services Division.

Last year, we started the first Nova Bike Share with 30 bikes and over 94 students signed up. All of the bikes are truly unique, as each one seems to have its own story. Some look like Frankenstein’s bike and others seem too nice to be free. The style of bike ranges from road bikes to beach cruisers. Although you’ll come across the occasional technical problem, Devereux, comes to campus each semester to perform free maintenance to keep costs down for riders.

How villanova’s bike share Works

We advertise the program to the student body through our campus newsletter. In order to attract new students, Freshman RA’s were notified of the program and also informed their residents.

Since we were not able to have a traditional bike share, our program functions more as a rental service. Students sign up online to receive a bike, specifying what size bike and how long they would like the bike for (either the academic year or the semester). The best part is that the rental is entirely free for students! We even offer free winter storage for students who opt to rent a bike for the year and each bike comes with a lock. All courtesy of Villanova’s Office of Sustainability!

When students come to pick up their bikes, they’re required to have a helmet and have previously watched a safety video. Students must sign a waiver at pick up (which is slightly different than the traditional bike share because the riders take ownership of the rented bikes and don’t return them to a specific place hourly).

For those who are skeptical of trusting college students with bikes, there have been very few cases of lost or stolen bikes. Costs remain low: Although there is a fee for lost locks, lock keys, and the bikes themselves, the maximum penalty is only $100.

bike share villanova

Rolling Along with a bike share

The Nova Bike Share has had an amazing reception so far. Easily our most popular program, the bike share appeals to students from all backgrounds. This year, we increased the number of bikes in the program by 65% for a total of 50 available bikes.

The growth was encouraged by the positive feedback we received from last year’s participants, many of whom noted that the best way to improve the program was to introduce new bikes. We also discovered that reasons why students want to participate range from making the trip to class faster to a way of commuting to part-time jobs. This variety reflects the versatility of bike share programs in general and how helpful they can be in any community.

Bike Share villanova university

Looking forward, storage space is the only thing holding us back from future growth. Biking is a simple solution when the problem is getting from A to B, but the benefits of a bike share program go far beyond reducing travel times.

The success of our scaled down program proves that a bike share can work outside of cities. Programs like Villanova have the potential to relieve congestion on suburban campuses, provide more exercise opportunities, and help foster a sustainable mindset. More importantly, people realize that just because something (like cars) is the norm doesn’t mean it’s the only option.

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Thomas Saldutti is a student at Villanova University studying Civil and Environmental Engineering. His passion for the environment started with bugging friends about recycling and weekend camping trips and evolved in college on Villanova's Presidents Environmental Sustainability Committee. The group works with faculty, staff, and fellow students to help make our campus more sustainable. After college, Thomas hopes to contribute to sustainable development throughout the city. View all posts by Thomas Saldutti

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