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Union Senate to vote on bicycle sharing money resolution Sunday

Published: November 14, 2008
Section: Front Page


Toly Rinberg '11, pictured here, is one of many Brandeis Students who choose to ride their bicycles across campus and, often, into the surrounding Waltham area. "It's just more convenient" than a car, said Rinberg. He also has his car on campus but he "hate[s] driving it." If the resolution passes the benefits of biking will become available to the entire campus.

Toly Rinberg '11, pictured here, is one of many Brandeis Students who choose to ride their bicycles across campus and, often, into the surrounding Waltham area. "It's just more convenient" than a car, said Rinberg. He also has his car on campus but he "hate[s] driving it." If the resolution passes the benefits of biking will become available to the entire campus.

PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

The Special Task Force on Bicycle Sharing (STFBS) will present a money request to the Student Union Senate on Sunday for a sum between $1,000 and $1,500 to fund the long anticipated ‘Deis Bikes rental program, which would provide bike rentals to Brandeis students free of charge.

The request will be presented to the Senate this Sunday and voted on at next week’s Senate meeting. All eight members of STFBS and Student Union Vice President Adam Hughes expect the request to pass.

The money, which, if approved, will be taken out of the Senate discretionary fund, will be used to buy at least 10 used bikes from the Main Street bike shop, Spoken Wheel. The money will also be used to buy repair tools, tire pumps, decals, locks and one helmet per bike.

STFBS member Caroline Cappello ’11 said that the Task Force is especially excited for the program to be implemented because it provides students with a “fuel free form of transportation.”

Indeed, Task Force members agree that it is the program’s environmental sustainability that will, hopefully, help the money request pass.

‘Deis Bikes will be kept in bike racks (funded by the university’s Facilities Department) outside of the library, and bikes will be rented from inside the library.

If students wants to rent a bike, they will have to go inside the library to the Loans and Returns desk, where their student ID card will be swiped. The student will then be handed a key to unlock one of the bikes, along with a helmet.

STFBS originally wanted to do bike rentals out of the Shapiro Campus Center, but changed their plan because they wanted to use Library and Technology Services technology. Still, they say students will not be inconvenienced because the library is a central point on campus.

Students will be asked to sign an either physical or electronic liability form rendering them responsible for all damage to the bike while it is in their care upon renting a bike. If the bike or helmet is damaged while in a student’s possession, he or she would be charged the amount of the repairs. By signing the form, students will also be agreeing to lock up the bike when they are not using it and to wear a helmet when on the bike.

Students will also be charged late fees of a yet to be determined amount if they do not return the bikes on time.

STFBS member Lisa Frank ’09 said that ‘Deis Bikes will, for the most part, be operated on an “honor system.” Fellow member Caroline Cappello ’11 added that the fees are not meant to “hound” students, and that the regulations about bike use will be “mainly common sense.”

As of print time, STFBS had not decided how long each rental would be, however, they hope it would be in hourly increments that would last either up to 24 hours or as long as the library is open.

STFBS member and Senator at Large Andrew Brooks ’09 said that the hope is that there will always be bikes available to students who want to rent them.

If the request is passed by the Senate, ‘Deis Bikes will become available to students in March. Though Committee head and Senator for the Class of 2010 Paul Balik ensures students that, once approved, ‘Deis Bikes won’t be going anywhere, he did say that the program will only exist from March to May in the spring semester, and August to November during the fall, in an effort to avoid problems surrounding bike loans during bad weather.

The program will be entirely sustained by students, with bike repairs being done by student mechanics, which would be trained by Spoken Wheel and compensated by the Student Union.

While students renting bikes would be fined for any major damage to the bike while it is in their care, student mechanics would be responsible for performing weekly routine tire and gear checks on the bikes to ensure that they were safe to ride.

If the request is approved, STFBS plans to assess how “bike friendly” the Brandeis campus is and then present their results and recommendations for ways to improve the campus to the Student Life Committee on Nov. 19.

Possible plans to increase the campus’ bike friendly status would be to increase the number of bike racks on campus and to create bike paths or lanes along campus roads.

The idea for ‘Deis Bikes was originally presented last spring by then Village Senator Michael Kerns ’09. When Kerns resigned from his position in the fall, Balik and Charles River Senator Chen Lu ’09 decided to pick it up.

The two senators then teamed up with five students from Prof. Laura Goldin’s (ENVI) Greening the Campus Community class who had expressed interest in working on the project.

STFBS looked at bike sharing programs at other universities such as neighboring Wellesley College when setting up plans for the program.Once the group decided that the best way to rent the bikes was through LTS, Senate LTS committee chair Andrew Brooks ’09 joined the cause.

While the bikes will be available for use on and off campus, Lu said he hopes the program will encourage students to get to know the Waltham community.

Cappello hopes that ‘Deis Bikes will be successful, and added that if the program gains popularity, the Task Force would have no problem requesting additional funds for more bikes in the future.

“The hope is that it’s going to provide students with a convenient way to get around,” she said. “If you want to get a book from the Waltham Library, or go to the farmers market or even just get a hair cut, instead of getting a friend to give you a ride or waiting for the shuttle, you can just hop on a bike. It will be faster and cheaper.”

Balik agreed, adding that the program would also be “healthier, for students and the environment.”