A new bicycle rental program at Southern Oregon University encourages students to think before they take a car.
Students can check out a bicycle from the Hannon Library during library hours using their university identification card. Each checkout includes a bike lock, helmet and lights. The service is free and available to students only. If they keep a bike overnight, a $10 fee is charged their university account, said coordinator Charlie Chao.
Students must sign wavers assuming responsibility if they are injured or the bicycle is damaged.
The student-driven program has library faculty support, said Hannon Library Dean Paul Adalian, who was introduced to the concept in August 2008. Adalian sees the library as more of a comprehensive student resource than a storage facility for books, and the bicycles as a way to expand that definition. He made a space under the stairs in the lobby to store the bikes.
SOU's Ecology Center of the Siskiyous purchased 10 new bikes this year for the project, said Chao. Five bikes are available for checkout until the program is more firmly established.
Funded by student activity fees via ECOS, the new bicycle exchange program is separate from the now-defunct Ashland Community Bike Program, in which students built their own bikes, said ECOS Office Manager Sarah Rudeen.
The goal of the new program is to get people on bikes, Rudeen said, while ACBP focused on building and maintaining bikes.
Chao, an environmental studies major, will do as much of the bicycle maintenance as possible. "Not to brag, but if I can't do something, it's probably not fixable," said Chao, who built bicycles as a child with his father.
His salary is paid by a federal work study program, not ECOS, a boon for a program that has a $4,000 annual budget, said Rudeen.
Library Government Information specialist Jules Filipski checked out the first bike on Earth Day. Filipski doesn't own a bike and walks to and from work. Instead of driving a car to run errands during lunch, Filipski hops on a bike.
Part of a brainstorming session for the program more than two years ago, she said she is excited to see the program come to fruition.
Since the program opened, 25 bicycles have been checked out, said Reserves Coordinator Bill Herman. The program is not polished yet, he said, and advertising hasn't been a priority for library staff.
Rudeen, Adalian and Chao said they hoped students would use the program.
Eating local, composting, recycling, taking a bike to class are all things that reduce carbon footprints, said Chao. "We all have cars," he said, "but we don't drive them."
Becky Gilmer is a Southern Oregon University intern. Reach her at email@example.com.