URI launches bike sharing program on campus

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 874-7892

Sixty 60 bicycles available for free use on campus

KINGSTON, R.I. — September 18, 2003 — University of Rhode Island students, faculty and staff needing a quick and easy way to get across campus now have a fleet of 60 reconditioned bicycles at their disposal that they can use for free.

The innovative bike sharing program, launched today, is called URIde. The bikes are provided free of charge for use at any time by students, staff and faculty, as long as they are ridden only on campus and are returned to a campus bike rack when the rider is finished.

Forty additional bicycles, all donated by Rhode Islanders, will be added to the fleet of URIde bikes later in the year after they have been repaired and tuned-up.

The program was launched today with a daylong festival on the quadrangle featuring information booths about bicycles and sustainable transportation, raffles, free T-shirts, a scavenger hunt with a $100 first prize, food and educational displays. The event included a short “Tour de Quad” led by URI President Robert L. Carothers.

“The idea for the program grew out of a concern for the environment and discussions during the 2001 Honors Colloquium on sustainability. Students were eager to apply ideas they were learning about,” said Lorraine Keeney, coordinator of URI’s sustainability initiative. “We want to discourage the use of cars for short trips across campus and encourage a culture where alternative modes of transportation, including bicycles, are available. Supporting the URIde program is an easy way for the University to serve as a model and provide leadership in the area of sustainable transportation.”
Joining Keeney in leading the initiative is URI senior Alli Fong of Cranston, a marine biology major and avid biker who worked with a group of freshmen in a URI 101 class last fall to introduce her vision and to begin planning the program. “Rather than driving being the only way to get across campus, we want to make biking a viable option,” explained Fong. “As biking on campus becomes the norm, people will bring their own bikes to campus and not just rely on the URIde bikes.”

A few short months after plans for the program were initiated, more than 150 bicycles had been donated from throughout the region, and a Tuesday night bike repair workshop, led by URI Professor David Fastovsky, was established to clean, fix, and paint the donated bicycles.

A URIde Advisory Board was established last winter consisting of faculty, staff and students, as well as URI alumnus Martin Hellewell of Jamestown.
“Martin has been our most dedicated volunteer, donating bikes, making the first financial contribution to the project, and giving his time and energy to make the whole program work,” said Keeney.

Hellewell also connected the group with Harry Curfman, who operates the Jamestown Transfer Station and who has rescued dozens of bicycles from the town landfill for reconditioning and eventual use in the URIde program.

Modeled after similar efforts in Seattle, Portland and Copenhagen and at several other universities around the country, all of the URIde bicycles have been partially painted bright orange and have a URIde logo placard installed near the rear wheel. “All the bikes used in the program can be easily identified as part of the fleet of public bikes. The paint and age of the bikes will definitely discourage theft,” Keeney said.

A URI 101 class will track the use of the bicycles during the first few months to determine how often they are used and where they are left most often. “The data they collect might provide a clue as to whether students in one particular major or another use the bikes more or less often or whether the hill that leads down to the Ryan Center affects the use of the bikes,” said Fong. “If all the bikes end up down at the Ryan Center, we’ll know that nobody wants to ride uphill and we may have to periodically redistribute the bikes up to the main part of campus.”

URI has 21 bicycle racks spread throughout the Kingston campus, with another 21 expected to be available by the end of the school year thanks to the support of URI Parking Services. “We’d rather have URIde than have you drive on campus, so we are supporting this program to hopefully reduce the number of cars driving around campus,” said Patricia Gardner, coordinator of URI Parking Services.

Additional bicycle donations are still being sought for the program. Anyone interested in donating an adult bicycle of any model should contact Keeney at 874-4947. Volunteers are also needed to help paint and repair the fleet of bikes and to help in organizing the program. For more information about the URIde program, visit the program’s web page at www.uri.edu/sustainability/uride.