Communal bike program debuts

by Kevin Garland | 5/11/05 5:00am

Student Assembly launched a new public bicycle program Monday, casting away the days of bright green, ineffective bikes and introducing high-handled black beauties and a revamped circulation program. The initiative intends to help solve transportation issues for interested students and correct the failures of past bike programs.

Individuals have already responded positively to the system, according to Todd Golden '06, one of the program's initiators. Golden said the program already has over 80 students on board. After nine months of planning, preparation and heavy scrutinizing by Assembly leaders, the program has had much time to fix any kinks, he said.

The $6,000 initiative charges students $10 for the use of communal bikes over the next three terms. Each Iron Horse bike has the same lock that participants can open with a provided key. Seniors and others who wish to terminate their involvement in the program after this term can receive a five dollar refund at the end of spring.

Golden, who worked side-by-side with Frank Glaser '08 and Ben Zimmerman '07, who is also sports editor for The Dartmouth, noted many of the efforts the committee has undertaken to create a more promising communal-bike program.

Locks are secured to the bikes with steel cable ties, and Safety and Security has been instructed to clip any foreign locks if someone tries to detain a communal bike. Furthermore, Safety and Security will "recirculate" the bikes to avoid clumping in certain areas. Also, maintenance crews will roam campus and the bikes will be stored in an off-campus, secure location during the Winter term.

"In order to raise the funds and do this correctly, it has taken Ben, Frank and I nine months. What we've got is going to be successful, and it's been worth the time," Golden said.

It was a lengthy process in arriving at Monday's bike debut. On top of working with multiple outside organizations, including the Dartmouth Legal Office and Safety and Security, Assembly leaders spent much time examining nearly every detail of the program.

This project was birthed due to the Assembly's desire to provide communal bikes, but also because last year's previous attempt did not produce results.

"They were low-quality bikes, people abused the bikes a lot, there weren't any locks and there wasn't a membership program -- it was a communal bike program where anyone could use the bike at any time," Glaser said, listing some of the causes for the failed program.

Glaser, Golden and Zimmerman researched bikes and logistics throughout the summer and fall, examining different bikes to purchase and wading through the bureaucracy of instating the program at the College.

When the Assembly voted for the program on March 8, Diana Zhang '06 and Kirsten Murray '07, along with support from Julia Hildreth '05, presented a radically different version of the program in an amendment that the Assembly ended up not approving.

"Diana and Kirsten were helping us form ideas, but there was kind of a split at one time -- very close to the time we presented it to SA -- and that split was basically the result of Kirsten, Diana and Julia Hildreth wanting an alternative program, a non-communal program," Glaser said.

Zhang, Murray and Hildreth proposed a bike rental program that would provide one bike to one student renter.

"We felt a rental program would be an in between step to moving to a full communal program," Hildreth said, "Obviously now that the project is launched, Student Assembly is fully behind it."

Golden characterized the involvement of Murray and Zhang as good outside introspection, but said that there was "a radical difference of ideas at the time."

"There was that division and from that point on, although we consulted, we weren't a working group," Glaser said.

In the end, the bike program navigated this speed bump smoothly.

"Julia, Todd, Ben and I all wanted to see a bike program that would succeed. We had a common vision. Julia, Kirsten and Diana had a different manifestation of that vision," Glaser said.

Despite this and other future road obstacles, such as making sure the program continues smoothly next year with the new Assembly, the program finally materialized.

"We're all kind of waiting anxiously to see if the Dartmouth community will embrace the program," Hildreth said.

The Dean of the College's office contributed one-half of the overall costs, while the Assembly allocated $2,000. The rest of the money for the program was raised from local organizations and businesses.