No, Eastern Kentucky University isn’t changing its school colors to green and yellow. And the Power of Maroon isn’t exactly giving way to pedal power.
But it may begin to look that way as the University rolls out a dock-free bike share program, the first of its kind on a Kentucky college campus, designed to help students get around the Richmond campus. At no cost to the University, Eastern has contracted with LimeBike on the program, which launched with 100 brightly painted green and yellow bicycles on Monday, March 19, with plans to increase the fleet to 250 in the upcoming weeks.
Here’s how the program works:
1) LimeBike (www.limebike.com) provides the GPS- and 3G-enabled bicycles and requires users to download the firm’s mobile app, available on iPhone and Android platforms, register an account and provide payment information.
2) The user can then use the app to “unlock” and begin to use any of the LimeBike bicycles. LimeBike’s rides cost just $1, or 50 cents for those using an @eku.edu email address, per 30-minute time block. To pay, any user will enter credit card information into the smartphone app for ride credit.
3) Monthly, per semester, and annual subscriptions are also available at a discounted rate. The annual subscription plan, for example, allows students, faculty, and staff to enjoy up to 200 rides (100 in fall and 100 in spring) for $49 per year.
4) When a bike is needed, the app shows users the location of the nearest available bike if one is not immediately visible. No rider is guaranteed access to the same bike when he or she returns to it – or any bike, for that matter – but in most cases will be able to secure another nearby bike.
5) The bicycles can be used to commute to and from off-campus locations, so will likely begin to show up in downtown Richmond and other city locations. Each bike has a 15-pound-capacity basket on the front as well as a headlight and taillight for safety. LimeBike also has a local operations team to maintain the fleet.
6) The bicycles should never be fixed to a bike rack, but users should leave them standing out of the way of foot traffic at the completion of any ride. Each bicycle has several built-in anti-theft devices to deter would-be thieves.
Initially, the bicycles will be placed around campus and re-balanced according to usage patterns.
The implementation of LimeBike meshes with the University’s Master Plan, which calls for making the campus more pedestrian-friendly and creating a livelier campus core. Already, Park Drive has been permanently closed to through traffic.
“I envision LimeBikes all over the middle of campus,” said EKU President Michael Benson before taking a test spin recently.
The bike share program also coincides with the University’s comprehensive Climate Action and Resiliency Plan to strategically and economically reduce its carbon footprint to zero by 2036, in accordance with the Second Nature Climate Commitment.
“Transportation contributes to about 15 percent of our annual carbon footprint,” EKU Sustainability Manager Patrick McKee noted. “Whatever we can do to encourage no-carbon or low-carbon methods of transportation, we’re interested.”
Campus officials and LimeBike will watch bicycle traffic patterns carefully, McKee said. “This will help us make the best decisions on where to place new bicycles and where to put bike paths.”
McKee said he has noticed increased personal bicycle usage in recent years, so he expects the bike share program to be popular.
“This is one of the most visible initiatives we’ve undertaken,” McKee said. “I’m excited to see how it goes.”
LimeBike, launched in 2017, aims to revolutionize mobility in cities and on campuses by empowering residents with cleaner, more efficient, and affordable transportation options that improve urban sustainability. By systematically deploying its smart-bikes, enabled with GPS, wireless technology, and self-locks, the company aims to dramatically improve urban mobility by making the first and last mile faster, cheaper and healthier.
“As the leading dock-free bikeshare company in the U.S., we’re excited to partner with EKU, who is paving the way in sustainable transportation in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said LimeBike Regional General Manager Sidney McLaurin. “This is an exciting launch for the entire state, and we’re looking forward to other opportunities to expand in Kentucky.”