Monday, Sep 24, 2018
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UT bike-share program helps environment, traffic

Students can ride for free to get around campus

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    Student government President Cody Spoon, left, and Vice President Ian Michalak show one of the racks of bicycles that students can borrow.

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    Students swipe their ID cards at these scanners, at right, to release a key that unlocks the bike racks. But don’t be late. Late fees are $10 per hour.

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Student government President Cody Spoon, left, and Vice President Ian Michalak show one of the racks of bicycles that students can borrow.

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College students have a new way to rocket around the University of Toledo campus.

UT recently launched Rocket Wheels, a program that allows students to borrow a bicycle for up to four hours at a time on weekdays and eight hours on weekends.

A fleet of 50 individually numbered communal bikes can be picked up at no cost from three main campus sites.

Students who register for the program can swipe their ID cards at Rocket Wheels vending machines, which dispense a key to unlock one of the bikes, stored in nearby racks. When the allotted time expires, students return the bike to its original rack and drop the key back into the machine.

“The more people participate with it we can actually establish more locations, more bikes, and maybe even more technology,” said UT student government President Cody Spoon, a junior from McComb, Ohio.

He and Vice President Ian Michalak, a junior from Toledo, pledged during their campaigns to see to fruition a years-long effort to start a bike-share program.

Student leaders have been working with administrators for several years to make the campus more bike friendly.

The provost’s office provided $52,000 to pay for the bikes, baskets, keys and locks, signage, and concrete pads and rails to hold the bikes.

Matt Rubin, a UT alumnus and former student government president who works in Toledo, recalled how during his terms in office, from 2010 to 2012, a complete streets committee formed to work on transit-related issues. Karen Gallagher, a UT doctoral student in spatially integrated social science, led the group.

He was pleased to see that groundwork pay off. Encouraging more biking is good for the environment, physical fitness, and can help ease parking congestion, he said.

“It makes our campus more unique and inviting, and it shows that the university cares about these types of progressive movements and really doing a great job of keeping up with other universities and staying competitive,” Mr. Rubin said.

The sturdy, single-speed bikes are stored campuswide at Rocket Hall, the West Ramp Parking Garage, and Palmer Hall. About 30 of the bikes are made by Worksman Cycles in New York City and painted in a custom UT color scheme of blue and gold. The remaining yellow bikes are made by Huffy. Some even boast cup holders.

If a student stops midride, he can temporarily lock up a borrowed bike using the key from the vending machine.

Students are charged a $10 per hour fee if they are late to return the bike. 

The program could expand this spring to include staff and faculty, said Diana Watts, UT’s transit program coordinator.

Local cycling enthusiasts cheered the UT program’s arrival. Keith Webb, a Sylvania Township resident who spearheads the bike-transit organization, has spotted some of the bikes on the University/​Parks Trail.

Such an amenity makes Toledo more attractive to millennials, he said.

“You are vying for this population to one day find a home and a job and, hopefully, work in Toledo,” he said.

Bowling Green State University has had a bike-share program since 2009. The Orange Bike Program refurbishes lost or abandoned bikes. Students who sign up receive a universal key that opens locks on community bikes, which can be found and dropped off at racks around campus.

Next fall, BGSU plans to evolve the bike share initiative into a rental program. Students will pay a “nominal fee” to rent a bike assigned to them for the semester or academic year, said sustainability coordinator Nick Hennessy.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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