Carolina launches bike share program

Tar Heel Bikes, a new bike share program to provide affordable, environmentally friendly transportation across campus, launched Oct. 25 at Carolina. The event was held at one of 18 initial bike racks on campus near the Pit, just in front of Davis Library.

One hundred bikes, supplied by Gotcha Bike and sponsored for the inaugural year by Burt’s Bees, are available to be checked out so students, faculty and staff can travel efficiently and reduce on-campus carbon emissions and parking demands.

“We are excited to launch this innovative program, which is a fast and healthy alternative for short distance trips across campus,” said Cheryl Stout, director of transportation and parking.

Chancellor Carol L. Folt announced the program last month during Three Zeros Day, which celebrates the University’s integrated approach to reducing environmental impact through reaching the goal of zero waste to landfills, net zero water usage and net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’ve been dreaming about this for a while,” Folt said. “It is such a great opportunity for us to continue to live the practices of sustainability and the Three Zeros.”

The idea for developing a bike share program originated with students, Stout said. It gained traction across campus when the advisory committee on transportation and parking began seeking input for the new transportation and parking five-year plan.

The program eliminates the hassle for students and employees of hauling their bikes back and forth to campus and finding a secure place to park them once they do.

Stout sees other side benefits as well – from reducing the amount of traffic on campus to creating a new way for employees to get fit.

“People can ride these bikes for their afternoon workout,” Stout said.

People who use the bikes will also avoid the hassle of trying to find a parking space around campus and getting a temporary permit to use it.

Customers may reserve bikes by downloading app.socialbicycles.com or paying online at the Tar Heel Bikes website. Bikes may be parked at bike racks or Tar Heel Bikes hub stations. Those who register for the daily plan pay no membership fee and may ride one hour per day free. Lifestyle plan participants pay a $30 annual fee and get two hours per day free.

The app and website also offer reservations 10 minutes in advance from a live map that shows customers available bikes at all hub locations. Customers have the option to place a hold on a bike to maintain a reservation for up to 30 minutes when using a hub location.

Gotcha Bike provides bike share programs at 30 college, residential and corporate campuses across the United States. Durability features of the specially made bikes include a lightweight and rustproof aluminum frame, waterproof Kevlar seats and puncture-resistant tires, which together offer a maintenance-free smart bike.

All of the bikes are equipped with GPS locators and will be redistributed to locations across campus to ensure there are bikes conveniently located at each rack. Gotcha Bike has plans to partner with a local bike shop to repair the bikes as needed at no charge to customers.

By Gary Moss, University Gazette
Published Oct. 25, 2017