Faced with one of the largest campuses and student bodies in the nation, Texas A&M Transportation Services hopes to alleviate some of the transportation needs on campus with a new bike share program.
In the past two weeks, 10 bike stands with 75 bright white bikes have popped up across the campus as A&M joins the growing list of universities to bring in app-based bike shares.
The university is partnering with Zagster to provide the bikes. Users unlock the bikes with a code on the Zagster app and lock the bike back up at a different station at the end of their trip. A $25 annual membership fee buys the user one-hour trips Mondays through Fridays and three-hour trips on the weekend. The company charges $3 per hour for rides that last longer or for any rides by those without memberships.
Ron Steedly, alternative transportation manager, said the goal of the program is to make traveling across campus more accessible and affordable and to help solve the same challenge faced by students when he was at school in the 1980s -- how to move students from one side of campus to another in a 20-minute passing period.
"It's like bike ownership without the headaches, that's how I look at it," said Steedly while he and other transportation officials tried to drum up excitement for the program outside the Memorial Student Center on Wednesday.
Bike shares are becoming more popular as college-aged people nationally shift away from personal transportation and universities look for creative ways to provide transportation across campuses, said Jon Terbush, Zagster communications manager.
Terbush said bike shares become more appealing as universities look at the cost of adding parking garages and mass transportation services.
"[University campuses are] a fairly closed environment, and there's not much opportunity to really add more infrastructure to deal with cars," he said.
The new bike share on A&M's campus is small and doesn't have any immediate plans to expand, but Steedly sees a lot of promise in it.
He said it's possible the program may one day lower the demand for buses on campus, especially at high-traffic locations. He says the idea is that if easy access to bikes lowers the demand for buses on a specific oncampus route, Transportation Services may be able to relocate a bus from that route to an off-campus location rather than purchasing another $300,000 bus.
"We are hopeful that this will offer relief to the bus system and yet another way people can get around," he said.
Beyond any potential cost savings, Steedly said bikes are simply the best way to move around campus and easy on the environment.
"It truly is the fastest way to get across campus," Steedly said. "On the sustainability side, you are your energy -- it's absolutely the greenest way to go aside from walking."
Steedly, who is largely responsible for A&M being named a "bicycle-friendly university" by the League of American Bicyclists, hopes the share system will serve as a gateway for students interested in becoming cyclists, but who don't want to buy a bike or worry about fixing flat tires.
"For those who think, 'Yeah, it's cool, but I don't really care enough to really do it'," he said. "You can try it now, and just walk away when you are done -- your commitment is over."
Among those who share Steedly's hope is Chris Malloy, an avid cyclist who helps run Bryan-College Station Courtesy Mass, a community of cyclists who advocate for cyclist safety.
Malloy said bike shares are especially common in bigger cities and sees the addition of one on Texas A&M's campus as progress toward making the greater area more cyclist-friendly.
He said he was excited to hear about the program coming to A&M and will be keeping an eye out for whether cities in the area and other institutions such as Blinn College pick up bike shares as a result.
"I think this is definitely a great step forward for integrating bicycles into the Bryan-College Station area," he said. "Because when you have more bike shares available in the community, it's going to promote more use of bicycles in general."