Bike usage leads to further development

Bike usage leads to further development

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Emily Considine

 

Illinois Wesleyan University expanded its bike share program this year, adding new bikes and other features on campus.

The bike share program started last year, with four bikes donated by “Walk In Bike Out,” a local group that collects abandoned bikes from the community and gives them, free of charge, to people in need of bikes.

The program began to gain popularity, causing the committee to look into making some changes. “We decided to start the bike share as a pilot program and gauge interest before seeking any money to invest in the program,” said Bike Committee Chair Michael Gorman. “As it turned out, there was a great deal of interest in the bike share; we launched on September 27, 2013 and by the end of December, the bikes had been checked out a whopping 91 times.”

Based on the high usage of the bikes, the Bike Committee started looking for money to buy new bikes. Donations from several departments on campus, such as the President’s Office, the Dean of Students’ Office, Student Senate, the Action Research Center, the Wellness Office and an anonymous donation allowed the committee to purchase ten new bikes over the summer.

The new bikes are better for student use and for the life cycle of the bike. The bikes are single-speed, so the drivetrain is much more resilient. They have coaster brakes, which means fewer moving parts since one just has to pedal backwards rather than using handlebar brakes, and the chains are more protected from rain, snow and other elements. Baskets are also attached to the front of each bike to make carrying things easier.

Students, faculty and staff can check out bikes either at the Hansen Student Center Information Desk or the Ames Library Help at Ames desk. They can keep the bike for 24 hours at a time by showing their university ID. The bike can be returned at either location, regardless of where it was checked out.

“As of Tuesday, September 16, the bikes have been checked out 92 times since the start of classes –an average of 26 times a week,” said Gorman. People are able to check where bikes are available before heading out at https://www.iwu.edu/bikes/available.html.

“I think it’s great that biking is so easily accessible and supported on campus. I find that it is much quicker to get around campus on my bike,” said junior Jillian Bleck.

Not only can students, faculty and staff check out bikes, but they can also service their personally owned bikes for free on campus.

“We have received two donations recently that will improve cycling conditions around campus. First, the Tool Library donated a bike repair stand that was just installed outside of Hansen.” said Gorman. “The bike repair stand will enable students to make quick and easy repairs and adjustments to their bikes any time, day or night, absolutely free. Second, the Friends of the Constitution Trail donated an eight-bike rack for Pfeiffer Hall.”

An indoor storage area in Harriett is also available for use. Signups are accepted on a first-come first-serve basis. About 14 bikes are able to fit in this space. For more information about signing up and how the storage process works, visit https://www.iwu.edu/bikes/storage.html.

According to Gorman, who is also on the board of Bike BloNo, the community’s bike advocacy group, Bloomington and Normal have painted their first bike lanes in the past few weeks. Bloomington’s bike lane runs for two blocks on Front Street on the east side of Downtown Bloomington, and Normal’s runs for several blocks of Jersey Avenue, from Belt to Ewing Park III.

“Both Bloomington and Normal have a lot more they can do to accommodate bikes, but this is a great step in the right direction,” said Gorman. The City of Bloomington signed a contract with the League of Illinois Bicyclists to develop a citywide Bike Master Plan, which should be unveiled later this fall. The Town of Normal adopted a Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan a few years ago, and they are currently making great progress on implementing the Southern Corridor, of which both Jersey Avenue and Bryan Street are a part of.

“Being able to ride my bike around campus is great, but hearing that Bloomington Normal is making changes as well makes me very excited. I would love to see the cities safely on my bike and I’m glad the cities are acknowledging bikers’ presence,” said senior Emma Schmidt.

“Very soon, you should see “sharrows” (share the road arrows) painted on Park, Beecher and Franklin through the Illinois Wesleyan campus, which is part of the City’s pilot project in advance of the Bike Master Plan,” said Gorman. Those “sharrows” will help show students a safe way to get to Downtown Bloomington by bike, connect with “sharrows” on Park, Walnut, and Prairie and the new bike lanes on Front Street into Downtown.