The 14 bikes belong to TTU’s bike share program, launched this semester by the Tree House learning village with support and cooperation from the Honors Green Committee and a volunteer maintenance crew. Anyone with a TTU student ID can borrow one of them for free for an entire day and ride across the campus and the town.
“It’s one branch of the environmental efforts on campus,” junior geology major Geoff Gadd said. “It’s a convenience thing. Our campus isn’t wildly huge but it’s easily a 15-minute walk to go end to end and that’s if you’re walking quickly.”
The bikes were purchased through Caney Fork Cycle, Cookeville, using money from the sustainable campus fee. The $8 fee was approved by a student vote in 2005 and the money is used to implement green practices and purchase equipment, including electric vehicles and solar panels.
The bikes – seven for women and seven for men – have been available, with optional helmets, to borrow at the Tree House in New Hall North and Dunn Hall since the beginning of the semester. Approximately 100 people have checked them out each week, according to Andrew Smith, faculty head of the Tree House and TTU English professor.
“It’s phenomenal, how popular they are,” Smith said. “Every day we have students coming as early as 7:30 a.m., wanting a bike so they can ride to make a class at 8.”
Bike share programs are becoming popular nationally and internationally, from Mexico City to New York City, Washington, D.C., to Portland, Ore. Nashville started one last year, with six locations.
TTU’s bicycles are inspected every time they are borrowed and returned. Gadd and two other students spend about 40 minutes each every week refilling tires and tightening parts that come loose from being ridden every day.
As members of the sustainable fee committee, Gadd and fellow student Josh Donegan started thinking seriously about creating the program about a year ago, though it had been casually considered for several years. Already, Gadd said they are considering buying more bikes to expand the program next fall.
“We wanted to do something that everybody can be involved in,” Smith, who is known around campus for riding his bicycle to work, said. “We wanted to do something tangible that was obviously green.”