Let’s talk about a bike-sharing program for Sewanee

A possible bike-sharing service, Zagster. Photo courtesy of google.com.

By Apple Lee
Contributing Writer

Sewanee’s campus is known for its isolation from city life, and thus from shops and grocery stores. For years, Sewanee students had requested a new kind of transportation around and beyond the campus in order to their meet their shopping needs.

Last fall, the Dean of Students’ office listened and fulfilled student feedback with ZipCar, a car-sharing network that, according to Dean of Students Becky Spurlock, is used “on campuses all over the country.” Thanks to ZipCar, students are able to rent a car at a cheap price and fulfill their shopping needs.

Even with the new additions of the ZipCar and Sunday Shuttles, which will take students without transportation to Monteagle for any needs, Sewanee does not have a convenient way for students to transport themselves around campus.

With many students riding bikes on campus, it would seem to be a priority to have a cycle on campus. I believe that a bike-share program could benefit campus by helping students transport themselves to classes/meetings in a shorter time frame. Due to ZipCar being a car-sharing network, it would not be too oblique to consider a bike-sharing network on campus, particularly one called Zagster.

Zagster operates in 35 states across the country, and it’s available in urban and rural areas. Just by downloading the Zagster bike app, enjoying a ride is only a swipe away. This would be a convenient solution for students who have to go quite the distance from their hall to class. According to the Zagster website, Sewanee could obtain a bike sharing program called Pac, their “nationwide bike share network” for universities.

When it comes to looking at a program like Zagster, however, there are negatives outlooks to consider if instituted into the university. The ZipCar is so prosperous on campus due to the many services ZipCar provides to college campuses, “which makes it manageable on our campus,” according to Spurlock.

Spurlock told The Purple that “they provide the technological interface that students use to make the reservation. We didn’t have to build that. They provide the insurance, the liability, and they have somebody come every week to check the car. There’s regular maintenance on the car. Somebody washes it every week. So it doesn’t take a lot of staff time for us to operate ZipCar.”

So while the Pac network would provide a way for students to gain access to a bike in a flash, there needs to be a consideration for keeping the bikes in exceptional shape. How much would the administration have to pay for the Pac network in order to keep the bikes in maintenance?

Bikes are often stolen or “borrowed” by other students if their bike isn’t locked up. So if a student decided to not return a Zagster bike after accessing it, how would the administration be able to keep up with the number of bikes if they were stolen?

However, the Zagster app appears to keep track of whether the student has or hasn’t returned the bike. If the bike hasn’t been returned, the app is able to track down the location, even if the student had deleted the app after usage.

Overall, the positives of the bike-share network outweigh the negative impacts of providing bike stations on campus. For one, Zagster is quick to help students obtain a bike in seconds at a nearby bike station and the cost is cheap, much like ZipCar.

Travel time would be cut in half, helping students get to classes and meetings on time. It’s also a guarantee that there’ll be a nearby bike station for the majority of the Sewanee buildings.

While I’m a believer in having a bike-sharing program on a campus like Sewanee, it doesn’t come out of nowhere over fall, winter, or summer break. It comes from us, the Sewanee students.

If students would be interested in a bike-share program, they could communicate that interest to Student Life. In fact, one of the fall projects has been, said Spurlock, “launch[ing] a new ask-a-dean program so that we could regularly talk to students, hear from students” about their feedbacks.

This is a perfect opportunity for students to proclaim their interest in making Sewanee a better place, perhaps even piquing an interest in a bike program. Just as Spurlock said, “If it’s something that [students are] interested in,” then they may very well consider it.

One comment

  1. Hi there Ms Lee, I’m Adam with Zagster. Thanks for your thoughtful article! I work with universities around the county to help implement Zagster bike share programs to campus. If you’d like to learn more about how we address bike maintenance and bike tracking and enhance mobility on campus, feel free to reach out directly at agreenstein@zagster.com. Have a great day!

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