The International Institute and six other academic units on campus won free bikes for loaner use by staff and faculty.
We're thinking maybe we should even offer electric bicycles.
By Alison Hewitt
UCLA Transportation rolled out its new Bruin Bike pilot program Wednesday, Oct. 22, handing out one free bike each to seven departments for loaner use by their staff and faculty.
The departments, ranging from the Library to the School of Dentistry, were winners of a contest asking them how they would use the bikes to reduce midday car trips, helping cut UCLA traffic and pollution. Department representatives stepped on stage at the Oct. 22 Sustainability Fair to accept shiny blue bicycles, helmets and bike locks.
"We tried to match the bikes to the need and the likelihood of reducing campus car trips, where we could be sure they would be put to good use," said David Karwaski, the manager of planning and policy for Transportation.
Seeds University Elementary School, for example, received a bike in part for pointing out that they are located on an edge of campus without UCLA shuttle service, Karwaski said. The library system gained a bike because their employees must travel between library buildings all over campus.
Participating departments – which get the bikes and free maintenance for one year – will each set up their own check-out system for the bikes. They only price they'll pay is a replacement fee if they lose a bike.
It's too late for other departments to win a free bike, but Transportation plans to offer subsidized bikes to all departments starting in January, modeled on a program at Harvard. Karwaski said. Transportation got a deal on the seven bikes they gave away: instead of paying $580, they got them for $320 a pop. Departments interested in setting up their own loaner bike program starting in January will have access to a similar discount, plus $100 from Transportation for each of the first two bikes a department buys, Karwaski said.
"We think we'll probably offer a foldable bike," Karwaski said. "We're thinking maybe we should even offer electric bicycles."
And that's just Phase I.
Phase II comes in mid-to-late 2009, when Transportation hopes to set up bike hubs all over campus, where people can grab a bike at one hub and drop it off at another, expanding on a three-year-old program run by UCLA Recreation. Through Recreation, loaner bikes are already available from the Community Bike Center, located in the back of Wooden Center.
At the bike center, anyone with a Bruin card can take a two-wheeled ride by dropping $5 a day (and their credit card information, in case the rider "forgets" to return the bike). The $5 covers a bike, a helmet and a lock, said Joe McLeod, Recreation's program director for outdoor adventures. But even with only six bikes, demand rarely outstrips supply. Last academic year, the shop logged 100 bike-rental days.
"Not a lot of folks are aware of it, and a lot of students have bikes already," McLeod said. "Mostly what we see are weekend users who maybe have friends or family in town and want to head to, say, Santa Monica."
McLeod suspects Transportation's bike program will increase campus interest in biking and allow the program to expand. The bike shop also teaches classes on safety and maintenance, and offers on-campus bike repair to make it easier for bike commuters to keep pedaling, McLeod added.
Why aren’t bikes already popular on campus? Karwaski offered a few reasons.
"You have the typical L.A. car culture. Even on a nice college campus, that's hard to get away from," he said. "There's also not a lot of safe bike routes to campus. A third thing is topography – there are a lot of hills." He hopes Transportation's loaner program and other efforts, like adding dozens of new bike racks this year, will help grow the "bike community" on campus.
Meanwhile, Transportation and Karwaski will keep an eye on the seven two-wheelers in the Bruin Bike loaner pilot program with help from the bike center. Each bike has a computerized odometer, and a mechanic from the bike center will check the mileage during monthly maintenance visits.
"We want to know how much these are being used and how effective they are," Karwaski said.
So who got the coveted free bikes? Here's the complete list:
• Social Sciences Computing
• International Institute
• Environmental Health Services
• Department of Linguistics
• School of Dentistry
• UCLA Library
• Seeds University Elementary School
Interested in getting into the bike lane come January? E-mail Transportation's bike coordinator, Michael King, to get onto the "interest list."