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Recycles bike program kicks into high gear

The pilot program, which currently has 20 bikes, surpassed expectations, with upwards of 600 users and about 100 rentals per week.

Photo: Matt Bogen/The Chicago Maroon
A Recycles bike, locked up on a bike rack by the Bartlett Quad entrance of the Reg. The bike-sharing program is taking off its training wheels as it transitions from a pilot program to a full-fledged service.

Recycles, the free bike-sharing program on campus, went from zero to 600 in just three quarters. The pilot program, which currently has 22 bikes, surpassed expectations, with upwards of 600 users and about 100 rentals per week. Now, they’re going to expand the program with more bikes, more rental stations, and possibly even the option of quarter-long rentals or the ability to reserve a bike in advance.

The program currently has bikes stationed in four locations throughout campus: the Ratner Athletic Center, SSA, the Regenstein Library, and NSIT. A new station at the South Campus Residence Hall may also be added next fall, according to Sustainability Program Coordinator Colleen Christensen.

The service, provided by the Office of Sustainability in joint venture with Blackstone Bikes, has seen an increase in users over the past year, and now looks to revise the system in light of the program's success. Recycles will add two more bikes in the fall. Although that may not seem like many bikes, the ten percent increase will help keep up with consumer demand, Christensen said.

However, the increasing popularity of the program has also created new challenges. “As the program is starting to expand and become more popular, we are having more difficulty with more timely return of bikes,” said Christensen, who plans to seek continued feedback from users to fix any problems with the Recycles system.

The pilot program began in fall 2009 with a “tremendously successful launch,” Christensen said. After considering student feedback and requests for expanded hours and new locations, changes to the program are in store for the fall, she added. 

Christensen believes the program ultimately will change the way students think about sustainability and the environment, noting that sustainability is often mistakenly connected to inconvenience and self-deprivation. "Sustainability is about living a vibrant and thriving life," she said.

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