As bike sharing programs continue to proliferate in cities and college campuses across the US, Iowa State University is in the midst of creating its own bike share program to be integrated with the City of Ames. The university is utilizing student work to design the bike network, and has allocated a small amount of money to developing the program. However, the ISU student senate recently denied further funding, putting the project on hold and bringing into question whether or not Ames is ready for a bike share system.
Bike share systems allow users to borrow a bike from a station and return it to another station at the end of their trip, making cycling a viable form of transportation for those who don’t own their own bikes. These systems have gained popularity on college campuses. As of 2013, at least 33 U.S. universities had a bike-sharing system in place. These systems often work in conjunction with the city, and are typically established through a combination of public and private funding.
Iowa State University began designing bicycle prototypes for its own system last spring after receiving $5,500 in funding from the student body government. As development moved on to the engineering stage, however, the program failed to secure further funding. The decision was made in large part because there had been a lack of planning involved in the initial stages. The senators were unsure whether such a program would be feasible for Ames.
While proponents of bike sharing in Ames may be disappointed, the decision to withhold funding was justified. The university began design work on the system before any sort of feasibility study had been conducted. Even if there had been a feasibility study, it would have likely found that the bicycling infrastructure in the city of Ames is too underdeveloped to support a bike sharing network. There are very few streets with dedicated bike lanes, and ISU bike policy is virtually unknown to students. As a result, many unsafe bicycling practices occur on the ISU campus, such as cyclists riding on the sidewalks and crossing in front of buses as they pull out. Cycling as a form of transportation throughout the city is infeasible.
Before any progress can be made on the bike share program in Ames, the city and university need to make an effort to improve the biking infrastructure so that they meet contemporary standards.
Does your city have a bike share system? Is the biking infrastructure sufficient to accommodate it?
Credits: Images by Molly Carpenter. Data linked to sources.