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Deborah Grossman-Garber’s (right) URI 101 students are seeking donated bicycles for their bike sharing program, designed to discourage the use of cars around campus and encourage sustainable transportation.

Freshmen to launch bike sharing program on campus

University of Rhode Island students needing a quick and easy way to get across campus will soon have a fleet of bicycles at their disposal that they can use for free, thanks to an innovative bike sharing program being planned by a group of freshmen.

Modeled after similar efforts in Seattle, Denver, Portland, and Copenhagen and at several other universities around the country, the project is aimed at discouraging the use of cars for short trips across campus and encouraging a culture of bicycle use and sustainable transportation alternatives, according to Lorraine Keeney, coordinator of URI’s sustainability initiative.

The bikes will be available for use by students, faculty and staff wherever they can be found, and they can be left anywhere on campus at the end of a ride.

“All the bikes used in the program will be painted an obtrusive color to identify them as part of the fleet of public bikes and to discourage theft,” Keeney said.

Student Stacy Hyziewicz added: “This is a big campus, and it’s tough to get to class on time when you’ve got classes back-to-back and they’re at opposite ends of campus. Bikes will make it easier. And with the school on a big hill, it’s a lot easier to bike uphill than it is to walk.”

The eleven students organizing the project are doing so as part of their URI 101 class, a required course for all freshmen that includes a community service component. This year the freshmen service projects in the College of the Environment and Life Sciences all address the subject of sustainability. Other URI 101 classes are clearing trails, cleaning parks, working at food banks, and assisting a variety of other non-profit agencies for their community service activity.

To get the bike sharing program started, the students are seeking bicycle donations and financial contributions to help them purchase bikes and supplies for repairs. The students are also visiting yard sales and other places in search of used bikes, and encouraging local merchants to sponsor individual bikes.

By late October, 66 bikes were already donated to the program. The students estimate that 100 will be needed to meet demand once the campus community becomes familiar with the program. The students are also evaluating the need for additional bicycle racks to be installed around campus.

“This is a tremendous boon to have our freshmen take such an active ownership in a major project so early in their college career. It will definitely help ease their transition into the URI community,” said Deborah Grossman-Garber, program coordinator in the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences and the students’ teacher. “This project introduces our students immediately to the experiential learning that is such an important part of their college education at URI.”

Anyone interested in donating an adult bicycle of any model should contact Keeney at 874-4947.

By Todd McLeish

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