Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sustainable Transportation: University Bike-Sharing Program

The United States has been one of the largest polluters contributing to the current global climate change situation. It behooves the country to do everything it can to reduce carbon emissions and green its operations. Large cities harbor a concentration of traffic congestion and tailpipe emissions from motorized vehicles, and Chicago is not exempt. As transportation is a major carbon emitter, bicycle sharing programs will help reduce emissions. Bike-sharing can be a highly effective system in urban areas because of the compact nature of cities where most people travel short distances that are ideal for biking. DePaul University, with its two urban campuses, is a perfect candidate to implement such a program.

There are multiple benefits to bike-sharing programs. Environmentally, an increase of bike commuters reduces tailpipe emissions by taking cars off the road. Almost a pound of tailpipe emissions will be saved for every mile a member rides a bike instead of driving, according to the Zotwheels bike-sharing program and the University of California at Irvine. Bike- sharing reduces traffic congestion and conserves gas. Bikers also reduce their transportation costs and increase physical activity that promotes a healthy lifestyle. One can run errands during lunch and possibly even commute faster than public transportation in heavily congested urban areas. Bike-sharing also provides on-demand transportation and decreases theft of personal bikes. Bike-sharing requires staff to maintain, repair, redistribute bikes, and provide customer service, which produces green jobs. Another benefit to a bike-sharing program is speed and efficiency of the commute for those who have multiple legs in their trips. In addition, bike-sharing may produce more public transportation converts keeping cars off the road.

DePaul University would benefit greatly with a bicycle program within its urban campuses. In addition to the reasons listed in the last section, infrastructure for a bike-sharing program is ideal on DePaul’s urban campuses. Urban settings in general are ideal for bike-sharing programs because small-mileage commutes are very common. Fortunately for DePaul, the city of Chicago has taken the responsibility for the infrastructure for bike paths and some of the parking, which DePaul can take advantage of.

A lot of progress has already been made to make DePaul a very bike-friendly place through the Bike 2015 Plan by the City of Chicago. CTA buses are equipped with bike racks. Bikes are allowed on the CTA trains during non-rush hours. Bikes are also allowed on the Metra that goes out to the suburbs. There are bike parking racks at train stations and throughout the city. The goals here are to increase cycling for transportation and recreation to reduce tailpipe admissions, reduce traffic congestion, promote healthy lifestyle, conserve gas, and decrease transportation costs. These are ideal and realistic goals that DePaul can contribute to.

Over 90 universities offer some form of a bicycle program. The University of Colorado, American University, University of California at Irvine, Emory University, and Hampshire College are just a few universities that have implemented successful bike-sharing programs.

Many universities have already seen increase bicycle use after implementing programs. The University of Colorado has seen that the increase in bike-sharing use has increased public transit use, which has decreased the number of commuters by personal vehicle. At the University of New England, 75% of freshmen brought their cars to school in 2007. In 2008, the university handed out bikes to freshmen and only 25% brought their cars on campus. Washington DC has bike fleets on campuses at American University, Georgetown University, George Washington University, and Howard University. According to MetroBike, LLC, “bike-sharing pulled 16% of the respondents away from driving a personal car for their trip and 19% away from a taxi”. Survey results for Washington DC also showed that people who already own bikes still use the program and that bike-sharing is creating new trips that perhaps would’ve been made via vehicle.

Posted by Sylvia Chung

Photo courtesy of Sylvia Chung

1 comment:

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