UAF to offer bike rental program in April

Posted: Thursday, March 17, 2011

FAIRBANKS — The University of Alaska Fairbanks is hoping to add a hint of green to its campus this spring with a new bicycle rental program.

The UAF Office of Sustainability has approved the new program, which will be funded by a roughly $10,000 grant through the sustainability fee students pay each semester. The bikes will be available through UAF Outdoor Adventures for both short- and long-term rentals starting in April.

The program is grounded in a desire to cut back on vehicle traffic — and exhaust emissions — as part of a larger drive for the UAF campus to be more environmentally friendly. But Michael Stanfill, a sophomore mechanical engineering student who is part of the program, expects it also will be a practical solution for many students commuting to class.

“Especially with freshmen, you have a lot of students who don’t have transportation,” Stanfill said. “They don’t have a bike, they don’t have a car, but they still need transportation.”

Twenty new entry-level Kona mountain bikes will be available to students, and a stockpile of as many of 100 used bikes could be available if they’re fixed up.

Simon Rakower, a bicycle designer who has worked as an adviser to the rental program, said that collection of used bikes came from previous stalled efforts to offer bikes to students. He said the main weakness of earlier plans was they relied on donated used bikes, which were inevitably in need of obscure parts or constant repairs.

Being able to start with a stable of new bikes will make a big difference, he said.

“This one is going to work,” he said. “They’re going to have these bikes and they’re going to work well.”

The new bikes will go into a rental rotation after breakup in late April, and will continue to be available through the summer and early fall. Rakower said the program will evaluate whether to equip bikes with winter gear once the snow falls.

He said riding bicycles on snow and ice takes a different level of commitment, and the conversions to winter riding won’t be cheap.

“That set of goodies will cost as much as the bikes, and it’s very steal-able,” Rakower said.

The bicycles will be available for rental on a first-come, first-served basis. Stanfill expects the initial batch of bicycles will be in demand immediately.

“Everyone I’ve talked to said they’re ready to sign up for one,” he said.

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