In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint and increase student physical activity, University of South Florida’s (USF) Tampa campus will soon launch a free bike-sharing program called Share-A-Bull Bikes.
The program will be operated by the campus recreation department and will provide 100 bikes, each equipped with a GPS system so students can locate the bikes through a smartphone app or website. The system will also provide students with a security code they can use to unlock individual bikes and secure them to any USF bike rack.
According to Francis Morgan, the assistant director of outdoor recreation for USF, the program has generated excitement among students. “We’re an urban campus, and many students drive to campus,” said Morgan. “If [students] have classes on the other side of campus, they’ll go from one parking lot to another, through all the pedestrian traffic. We’re hoping this will decrease our carbon footprint and also provide a quicker, gentler, faster means for them to get from one side of campus to the other.”
Prior to earning approval for the program, USF did a feasibility study to gauge student interest concerning what type of bike-sharing program they’d be interested in. “Knowing the scope of what campus wants to achieve is really important,” said Morgan.
The study revealed students wanted a bike share program that was cost-minimal. “They didn’t want to pay at all unless they misused the bikes,” explained Morgan.
With this feedback in mind, USF used funding from its Student Green Energy Fund to offset some of the costs of the program. “The initial green energy grant is starting us out,” said Morgan. “All of the operational [costs] are covered for the first two to three years. And, we will only be charging misused [bike] fees on campus.”
For those looking to offer a similar program on their campus, Morgan advised speaking with their legal and purchasing departments to reveal what is required to move a major project like this forward. In addition, Morgan explained that although other bike-share programs may have been cheaper, USF chose to go with a top-of-the-line product. “If you want the Cadillac or the Chevy model, that’s something to think about,” he said. “If we had gone with a different format … with a less bells-and-whistle bike, we’d maybe have double the bikes, but then had less flexibility for our students.”
Coast Bike Share, the creator of the Share-A-Bull bikes, mobile app and website, has already seen success in Tampa Bay, with 300 bikes and 30 hubs throughout the city. “We’re going to be able to provide a low environmental impact, physical activity that students can use every day to be successful on campus,” continued Morgan. “So instead of getting in their car, they can get on a bike, go the quarter mile on campus, lock the bike up and not have to worry about it again.”