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Proposed Bike Rental Program Could Help Students Navigate City

If the bike-sharing program were to be passed, UT students could take advantage of biking around the city of Tampa. | Photo by Jocelyn Doina/The Minaret

Tampa City council members recently discussed the possible use of a bike-sharing program being offered in Tampa next year. The program would let residents and tourists take a rental bike for an easy ride around town.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn loves the idea and said to the Tampa Bay Times, “I want this to work here. I want it to happen.”

The goal of the program is to have 30 stations with 300 rentable bikes in downtown Tampa, Ybor City and bordering neighborhoods by fall of 2013.

John Kozloski, a sophomore sports management major at UT, was thrilled when he first heard of the possibility. “Since this isn’t much of a college town, it’s really hard to get around if you don’t have a car. I have lots of errands to run and can’t get to a lot of places without borrowing a car or catching a ride,” Kozloski said.

Kozloski also talked about the lack of available bikes at the McNiff Fitness center and how the hours to rent them are very limited. The bikes are only available from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays, and noon to 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. These hours are stressful for students, not only because they can only bike during specific hours, but because the late fees are so high. Students are forced to pay 10 dollars for every five minutes they are late.

Linley Dunham, a sophomore nursing major at UT, tried to use the bikes at the school gym last semester, but there were never any available. Now that she has a bike of her own, she does not believe she will utilize the upcoming bike-sharing program.

Alex Lawler, a sophomore allied health major, has many friends that live off campus. “It sounds like a great idea. I would use the bikes to get around everywhere; so much more convenient than walking,” Lawler said. Lawler has been using friends’ bikes to travel long distances and feels it would be easier to rent a cheap bike whenever necessary.

As proven in bigger cities, Mayor Buckhorn believes the program will improve the city’s environment.  “Virtually every major metropolitan area has a downtown that’s alive and vibrant  has a bike-sharing program. It adds to the urban experience. It makes sense,” Buckhorn said. Having the bikes available will decrease vehicle use and promote transportation that is healthy for both the renters and the Tampa environment.

The rentals may even be stretched to the Westshore business district and Busch gardens area by 2015.

To keep the bikes organized, renters would hand in their cell phones or credit cards while using the bikes for a 30 minute period without payment. If the occupants want to use the bikes longer, they will be charged with a small price. Residents will also have the option of paying a small monthly or annual fee so they can easily use the bikes whenever necessary.

Tampa tried a similar program in 1997 with only 50 bikes that were free for everyone. Within just a few weeks, the bikes were gone. This new program will enforce strict policies to ensure this does not happen again.

Downtown Tampa and the surrounding neighborhoods already have many bicycle lanes and signed bike routes. This includes the four-mile sidewalk along Bay Shore. This program will give students more to do and make use of the possibilities that the city has to offer.

Kirby Jay can be reached at Kirby.jay@spartans.ut.edu

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