Bike-Sharing: Not Just for Brandeis

The ‘DeisBikes program, which started during the spring 2009 semester, provides free bicycle rentals to Brandeis students. If you’ve never used it before, it’s really easy to get started — just present your student ID to the Shapiro Campus Center Information Booth, and you’ve got yourself a bike for the rest of the day. The program was started through the hard work of the Union and the “Greening the Campus and Community” class, and it’s a great way to encourage green transportation on campus.

Brandeis is far from the only campus to feature bike-sharing — in fact, a recent USA Today article shows that we’re part of a growing movement across the country. Nearly 90 American universities have adopted similar programs, many that dwarf our small 12 bike fleet. My favorite:

In 2008, faced with a parking crisis, the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, raised parking permit fees and began to give away free bikes to freshman students who promised not to bring cars to campus, university spokeswoman Kathleen Taggersell says.

Since then, the university has given out 530 bikes and, as a direct result of the program, turned a 95-space parking lot into a basketball court with a river-view tent for university events, Taggersell says.

Maybe we don’t have the money to do that now, but coupling free bicycles with a increase in parking fees would be a simple and very effective carbon tax that I think the majority of the student body would support.

The Drury University program also jumped out at me, particularly because of how it’s funded. The Drury student body agreed to pay a sustainability fee of $20 per year, much like the Brandeis Sustainability Fund we voted for last year. We already have bike-sharing, but Drury shows that this relatively minor contribution can go towards green initiatives that benefit the entire community.

Speaking of the BSF, the deadline to apply for funding is October 12th, so if you’ve got that awesome idea you’d love to see become reality, check out the BSF website for application instructions. Environmentalism doesn’t have to be chore; it can be as easy as riding a bike.