Breaking news: Rollins bike program screeches to halt

Graphic by Francisco Wang

The Rollins Sustainability Program has announced a pause in its bike rental program, effective at the end of the spring semester in May. This pause will extend through the conclusion of Fall 2022, at which point the program’s future will be reevaluated.

“I’d like to emphasize that this was not a decision which was made lightly, or without consideration for students, faculty, and staff with unique needs. The greatest threat to this program is its current lack of funding, which we need in order to continue this work,” said Laura Gustafson-Hullinger, program coordinator for Sustainability and Environmental Studies.

“Increases to student pay, while important, have changed the way the Sustainability Program functions,” said Gustafson-Hullinger. Sustainability coordinators were cut from 8 in 2021 to 4 for Fall 2023. “These limited positions restrict the work we’re able to do on campus, which is reflected in the pause of the bike program.”

The decision to pause the program was made by the Sustainability Program, the Circulation Desk Staff, Director of Olin Library Deborah Prosser, Bike Lead Coordinator David Smith (’19, HH ’22), and the Committee for Environmental and Sustainability Initiatives (CESI) , which is co-chaired by Associate Professor of Finance Richard Lewin and Administrative Support Coordinator Karen Crain.

The program began in 2009. Students could check out a bike for three days at a time for free at the Olin Library. In addition to bikes, students could rent helmets and safety lights. Investments toward the program were given as recently as May 2021 when the new bike house opened.

“The bike program is particularly invaluable to first year and international students who don’t have cars on campus,” said Gustafson-Hullinger. “We have about 850 individual bike rentals each semester, so it’s safe to say many students will be impacted by this decision.”

Rollins’ bike program is rare in size with roughly 50 bikes for a campus population of 3,104 students. UCF’s bike program, in comparison, has 60 bikes for a campus population of 66,000 students.

Smith, bike coordinator for the Sustainability Program, has been running the program for four years and is departing Rollins in May. His job was to perform bike checks once or twice daily and handle all repairs, taking about 10-15 hours each week to complete.

Without Smith, the program would need to hire a new person or company to maintain the bikes. To Gustafson-Hullinger, the Sustainability Program requested estimates to determine how much a maintenance would cost from several local bike shops. The program received one estimate from Gear Bicycle Sales located in Oviedo at a rate of $8,000 per semester.

The offer included a mechanic to perform services once a week, an on-call mechanic, 15 percent discount on parts, and discounts on future pedal bikes for new rental fleets. Additionally, the company required compensation in the form of business cards and flyers left in the area, a small sticker on each repaired bicycle with their company logo, and company logos wrapped around new bicycles purchased through the shop.

“While it is certainly not attainable for everyone, I do recommend that those who can afford to purchase their own bike look at local thrift stores or second-hand shops for gently used bikes,” said Gustafson-Hullinger. “We wanted to announce this decision with plenty of time before the fall semester so students could take time to think on what other options might be available to them, and hope that students can use the summer break to find alternative modes of transportation.”

The bike program’s pause eliminates all forms of on-campus public transportation provided by the college. Prior to the pandemic, the college provided Friday night shuttles, transporting students from Tars Plaza to Winter Park Village Shuttle between 6 pm and midnight weekly. Zipcar car rentals were also provided on campus until 2019, allowing drivers over the age of 18 to rent cars as members of Zipcar affiliated universities. Otherwise, Florida law states the minimum age of car rental is 21.

For those who wish to discuss this decision in-person, office hours will be held in Kathleen W. Rollins Hall room 213 on April 27 from 2 to 3 pm Additionally, students are invited to fill out this survey regarding student visions for the bike program . For students planning to bring a personal bike on campus next semester, they are required to register their bike with Campus Safety.

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