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Wednesday, 09 September 2009 15:00

Borrowing bikes a big hit at university

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Ever since the launch of the Yellow Bike Project in late August, a new bike culture has quickly sprung up around campus at Western Carolina University.

The student-led initiative, which makes a fleet of fixed-up bikes available to anyone who wants to get around campus, has worked well under an honor system.

Chris Holden, co-president of the WCU Cycling Club, said he and the other organizers had anticipated that some of the bikes would go missing, but said he hadn’t seen any bikes leave campus so far. Moreover, students seem to be respectful toward their borrowed rides.

“I see people trying to take care of the bikes. I haven’t seen people trying to beat them up,” Holden said.

Sophomore Jimmy Pease said he had used yellow bikes about 30 times before they had been out for even a week.

“I love it,” said Pease. “I will honestly look for one of these things rather than walking.”

Holden said within the first 10 minutes of the first day, he saw three people already riding by on the bikes, which operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“They’re a hot commodity,” said Holden.

The project’s success can be attributed to the hard work of three students: Stephen Benson, who graduated from WCU earlier this year, along with Holden and Zach Heaton, the other co-president of the WCU Cycling Club. The trio worked for nearly a year collecting donated bikes, many from the police impound on campus, and making repairs.

The final step was spray painting the bikes yellow, a color chosen because of its visibility and closeness to gold, one of WCU’s school colors.

Holden hopes the project will promote an active, healthy lifestyle, as well as provide a benefit to the environment by reducing the amount of driving on campus.

Benson’s other goal is to bring bicycles to anyone in the WCU community who has always wanted one.

“I have a lot of friends who want to get into biking. They just cannot afford a bike to ride,” Benson said. “This is a good way for people who don’t want to invest in a bike to have the opportunity to ride and figure out if they like it.”

Although there are about 10 bikes out on campus now, Holden hopes to see a fleet of 30 or 40 by the end of the year.

The program has already received an influx of donated bikes.

Despite the popularity of these yellow bikes, they aren’t exactly in excellent condition.

A sticker on the bike lets riders know what number to dial if any maintenance is required. Holden said within the first week, he received calls about flat tires and tune-ups. One bike lasted a mere 5 minutes after being launched.

While Pease said he wishes the bikes were in better condition, he is grateful that they are even available.

“These are perfect for what you need,” said Pease.

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