Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

University bike library gets rolling

Getting around — and off — campus got a little easier Sept. 24 as the University of Denver launched a free bicycle library with high-tech bikes available on request for all-day use.

The DU Undergraduate Student Government — in partnership with local businesses, the city of Denver and DU academic departments — launched the bike lending program with an afternoon of demonstrations, a bike check-up service, free T-shirts and plenty of buzz just as an early fall chill lifted and a weekend of perfect bike-riding weather approached.

The new program allows students, faculty or staff members to check out one of 20 new bikes from Nelson or Centennial residence halls with just a Pioneer card. The bikes can be used all day until 7 p.m. and come with a lock and helmet.

The program will be free through the winter and early spring, eventually folding into a citywide Denver bike-sharing network that will station some 600 bikes at self-service, solar powered kiosks all over the city. DU is expected to have at least two kiosks on campus.

“It’s really a perfect solution for a lot of students like me who don’t have a bike,” said student senator Dillon Doyle. “I wouldn’t use a bicycle every day, but if I could just borrow one, I’d use one once a week to run errands or buy groceries. These bikes are really high tech; they’re great.”

Within an hour, students gave away more than 150 commemorative T-shirts and dozens of students had hopped on a bike for a ride. Senior Antoine Perretta, undergraduate student body president, said there had been a good amount of buzz on campus already and students were eager to get rolling.

The bikes, designed to be durable, safe and easy to operate, sport baskets that can hold up to 25 pounds, tail lights powered by the motion of the wheels, and seats that adjust to fit riders with the flick of a lever. Locks are built into the bikes so they can’t get lost or left behind. Bikes will be kept in specially marked racks outside the residence halls where they are loaned out.

The bike library is the product of student involvement. Driven by Zoee Turrill (BA international studies ’09) and Mary Jean O’Malley (BA journalism, political science ’09) with the student government last year, Doyle and other students have picked up the effort this year. Provost Gregg Kvistad said student enthusiasm made what was what made the dream a reality. Students raised $50,000 to offset costs.

“The students said ‘We want to do this,’” Kvistad said. “They really pursued it, and that’s what kept everyone moving forward. It’s about the University’s commitment to sustainability, large and small.”

Kvistad tested out one of the bikes (watch the video) and found it rode “smooth as silk.”

“I hope everyone on campus — that includes faculty and staff — uses these,” he said. “The fewer automobiles we drive, the more that students and the rest of us use our legs or a bicycle, it’s making an impact. It’s a small impact, and it models behavior.”

Parry Burnap, who works with the city’s Greenprint Denver program, said the city is pleased to work with DU on the bike library program. The campus project helps the city plan for its broad launch in April.

“This is brand new for us, too,” she said. “This really helps us and gives us a chance to test everything out. It’s been great working with the students.”

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