Bike-sharing is a viable alternative to ownership

Baylor has made strides to provide students with affordable, accessible transportation to and from campus, and around Waco. Through services such as the Baylor University Shuttle (BUS) and the rentable Zipcar, students have the means to get where they need to go. But students who simply need a quick way to get across campus every now and then may not want to invest in a bicycle.

Cities like New York and Austin have implemented bike-sharing services, where members can simply insert a provided key, swipe their card, or punch in a code to quickly get on the road. Similarly, Baylor could implement this service to expand their current transportation offerings and continue their sustainability initiative, as there would be zero emissions involved. This would be ideal for students who don’t already have an on-campus mode of transportation but occasionally need a quick ride to opposite ends of the university.

Unlike New York City’s Citi Bike and Austin’s B-Cycle, all students would automatically be registered into the service’s system upon their enrollment for classes. This would remove the inconvenience of having to register through a website or download an app, which may discourage some students from ever using the service, as it is supposed to be hassle-free. All they would need to do is swipe their Baylor ID to unlock the bike and return it to the closest docking station when finished. The docking stations would be located where the larger bicycle racks are, such as Moody, the BSB and along Speight Avenue.

Since students would use their ID to check the bikes out, they would also pay with Bear Bucks – making the whole process more cohesive. Rather than pay for the bike per day, like at the Bear Mountain bicycle store, or half-day at Bicycle World, students could have the option of renting the bike in 15-minute increments. This would keep the cost low for the students who only need the bike between classes. And because the bike would be linked to the student’s account, they would also be held accountable for theft or damage of the bike. For example, Baylor could place a hold on the student’s transcript until proper action is taken.

The upfront cost of implementing a service like bike-sharing may seem too daunting of a task for Baylor to take on. However, Baylor has demonstrated their ability to fundraise hundreds of millions of dollars for the McLane Stadium and the Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation, and when compared to the Zipcar service behind the SUB, the university is already set up for such a bike-sharing service. Baylor also has a bicycle repair shop located across University Parks, ensuring long-term maintenance would be provided.

Some may argue that the cost of using the bike-sharing service would soon surpass the cost of buying a second-hand bike. This fails to address one of the key points of the service: its convenience. For example, people who own cars don’t avoid using Uber, even if it is cheaper for them to drive themselves. They use Uber because it is convenient. Likewise, even if someone owns a bicycle or skateboard, there may be instances where they find themselves on one side of campus without a mode of transportation. Not to mention it would serve all the people who walk to campus who don’t own a bicycle because they don’t want to deal with the hassle.

As cities like New York an Austin are adapting to Millennials’ movement away from ownership (i.e. Uber, leasing cars, bike-sharing, etc.), Baylor could benefit from doing the same. Bike-sharing aligns with services already provided by the university, as well as makes getting from class to class more convenient for students. Before looking into completely overhauling another residence hall, Baylor should consider shelling out a little money to continue providing their students with adequate transportation.