An environmentally friendly way to travel

Capstone courses integrate diverse studies and emphasize service-based learning and community involvement. One Capstone program, in particular, has exemplified this extremely well, spearheading the development of a bike sharing program that is currently available to the entire UNI community.

The idea first came about in Fall 2013, when Capstone students were split into groups and challenged to identify different projects that could be brought to campus. Kendal Ausborn, a UNI graduate who was a student at the time, approached them with the bike sharing concept.

Students with bicycles

Bike rentals are available for as long as an entire semester and as short as a single day.

“I was on campus all summer and saw that there were many exchange students on campus without a form of transportation,” explained Ausborn. "At the time, any bikes left on campus during the summer were sold at an auction at the end of the year. My idea was to put those bikes to use so that people who had transportation needs could benefit.”

They presented their idea to the upper administration within NISG and the cabinet agreed to donate some seed funding in the beginning. In addition, the Vice President for Student Affairs Office, International Programs and the Office of Sustainability all set aside money for the initial cost to get the first set of bikes and fix them up to a point where students could use them.

Along with the seed money, UNI won a national sustainability contest in transportation that was sponsored by PepsiCo and awarded UNI money to go towards this program. With this money, and funds from the Office of Sustainability and the Student Green Fund, they were able to purchase 40 new bikes.

The Office of Sustainability has played a central role in launching the program. Eric O’Brien, director of sustainability, has been with the project from the beginning and seen it grow into the program it is today. He has worked with NISG and other organizations to get this program off the ground, and even reached out to local bike shops for assistance with all repairs.

Renae Michelle, who served as student body vice president during the Spring 2015 and Fall 2015 semesters, also contributed to the project. She collaborated with the UNI legal counsel to reword the contracts used to rent the bikes to students, designed the contract layout and created the webpage for the bikes. She believes that there are a myriad of benefits for this program.

“The Bike Share Program has benefited students from its inception by offering opportunities for employment, leadership and personal development - all while simultaneously increasing student transportation access and reducing environmental impact,” said Michelle.

This program, which would not have been possible without the help of a number of university and community partners, has impacted UNI’s campus community by providing bikes for students who would not otherwise have access. It also promotes a more environmentally friendly way to travel.

“Beyond the specifics of this program, I think it’s a great example of showing how when students are engaged and come up with an idea, think it through well, identify how it should run and the interest and need, that students can implement change within our campus,” said O’Brien.

Bike rentals are available for as long as an entire semester and as short as a single day. Bikes are available to checkout from Rod Library. In order to rent a bike, students must complete the Bicycle Rental Agreement and Release Form (which you can download here) and turn it in to O'Brien.

The Bike Share Program has been collecting name suggestions and narrowed the choices down to two finalists. Students are invited to vote for their name of choice via this Facebook poll.

For more information about the program, visit https://nisg.uni.edu/bike-share-program or contact Eric O’Brien at eric.obrien@uni.edu.

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