The university developed a bike loan program open to all students at no cost using unclaimed vehicles and is scheduled to launch in time for the start of the upcoming fall semester.
The initiative was created to help fill the void left by the bike-share company VeoRide when it ceased serving Denton in the fall of 2020. Students will be able to check out a bike from the Transportation Services office located in the Highland Street Parking Garage and can use it both on campus and in the surrounding Denton area. The predetermined loan periods will range from a couple of days to the entire semester, depending on the student’s need.
“We are pleased to roll out this program soon and are confident the students will find it helpful and convenient,” Bill Donovan, Senior Director of Transportation Services, said. “We are also working on a Mobile Bike Repair Shop initiative […] that should be ready later this summer.”
The bikes for the loan program are the surplus vehicles that are abandoned on campus every year after spring commencement. If unclaimed for a six-week period, these bikes are usually sold at public auction. However, the university is keeping the current stock, so it can repair and repurpose them for the new loan program.
Transportation Services currently has 34 serviceable bikes ready to be loaned out. The department has a little over 100 bikes in total, but the remaining vehicles are not yet in working condition. University employees are still conducting condition inspections to secure proper maintenance and required parts.
The program will be run on an honor system, without using an app or tracking system.
“These aren’t professional-grade bicycles, so there isn’t a large financial loss if the bikes were not returned,” Donovan said. “We would try to get the bikes back as best we can and would probably refer the issue to Student Affairs if we’re unable to.”
Student Affairs may also be involved in future funding of the bike loan program. Transportation Services will propose the program to the We Mean Green Fund for financial support. The student-led WMGF Committee grants funding to campus sustainability projects created by students, staff and faculty alike.
“The idea of providing students access to bikes or biking resources is a win for students’ personal wellbeing as well as improved air quality,” WMGF coordinator Emily Bilcik said.
Additional funding would go toward repairing the aforementioned surplus bikes that are not fit for use. With the end of the spring semester approaching, the university may collect more abandoned bicycles for the program that need repairs. On average, 50 to 100 surplus bikes are collected on campus each year, Donovan said.
The launch of the bike loan program does not rule out a future partnership between the university and another bike-share company.
“Once sufficient funding becomes available, we will explore contracting with a third party to provide a bike share program similar to what we had with VeoRide,” Donovan said.
Regardless of where the bikes are coming from, ecology junior Jaylene James said she is excited to see their return to campus. The vehicles are used for a myriad of reasons, including exercise, leisure and convenience. To some students, bikes offer a safer method of travel.
“Being on campus without VeoRide has been really tough,” James said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to walk home from across campus at night wishing we still had those bikes.”
James lives close to campus. When her destination is less than a mile away, she chooses to walk instead of using her car.
“Whenever I walk home at night, I get paranoid,” James said. “But if I am on a bike, I feel much safer.”
Featured Image: A bike rack sits outside of Maple Hall on April 19, 2021. Image by Maria Crane