USUAA lends hand to depressed Green and Gold Bike Share

It was the one of the first proposals set before the newly formed Green Fee Board several years ago: a seasonal bike check-out for students, staff and faculty to cart themselves to and from class through the spruce and aspen-flanked UAA trails.

It was the type of student proposal that the Green Fee Board welcomed. It was environmentally friendly, economically feasible and socially responsible. And while the bikes would sustain the environment to a degree, perhaps the board failed to ask enough questions regarding the sustainability of the program itself. Who would facilitate the checkouts? Assemble the bikes once they arrive? Provide regular maintenance?

After the proposal was given the go-ahead in 2012, it took approximately two years before the bikes were unveiled before the student body in April 2014.

As the yellow cruisers began vacating the shelves — or in this case, the Central Parking Garage’s outside railing, where they were temporarily locked up like a centipede of yellow cruisers — other problems began to arise. One problem was the ease of which the seat could be raised and lowered. Another was the safety of riding the bike at night without any light fixtures. That required the board to purchase extra equipment for the bikes.

Fast forward to this summer and, despite new quick-release seats and bike lights, many of the bikes are in need of maintenance. As a result, in only its second year of operation, the bike-share program has stalled — that is, until two weeks ago.

That’s when USUAA President Jonathon Taylor and Vice President Matthieu Ostrander decided enough was enough. Tuition dollars had gone toward an idle program, and that isn’t fair to students.

“I took over management of the program a week and a half ago,” said Ostrander last Friday. “I pretty much revamped the entire thing to make it more functional. … We replaced the system that was confusing for users — that are students, the library staff who manage the checkout process and the Green Fee Board who was responsible for maintaining and ensuring the assets are being tracked.”

Rasmuson Library circulation clerk O.J. Carino sometimes helped students with the checkout. She said since the bike share program halted after only one summer of operation, fewer and fewer students have asked about it.

“I know when the program started it was pretty popular. It was hard to keep track of which bikes were going in and out half of the time,” Carino said.

To remedy this confusion on behalf of the library staff, Taylor and Ostrander plan to assign each bike a single number, which corresponds to the last two digits of the library’s barcode number. Previously, three numbers could identify a bike: the ‘Green Fee’ sticker below the seat, the bike’s serial number and the barcode from the library all contained numbers.

Beginning this week, student government will look for volunteers to provide basic maintenance to the bikes. The Green Fee Board, has recently undergone significant turnover and is looking for faculty advisers and students to join as well.

Written by Nolin Ainsworth