B-Cycle: sustainability for the future

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PHOTO BY ABBIE BOIKO
PHOTO BY ABBIE BOIKO

By Jared Kennedy
News Editor

Congressman Earl Blumenauer once said, “Let’s have a moment of silence for all those Americans who are stuck in traffic on their way to the gym to ride the stationary bicycle.” Students no longer
have to compartmentalize their physical exercise. Sustainability, affordability, and practicality have now converged—the program is called B-Cycle.

Since 2007 the B-Cycle program has been placing racks of rentable bicycles all over the nation. The blue bikes are made by Trek who is a main partner in the B-Cycle program.

These bike racks have been placed on college campuses like University of Nebraska at Omaha, as well as in general urban settings in cities big and small. For some, these bicycles may be the first step in his or her contribution towards a sustainable future. For others, these bicycles could be a convenient addition
to an alternative mode of transportation they already utilize.

Ben Turner is the program director for Heartland B-cycle; he runs the program for Live Well Omaha. Turner says there are 31 B-Cycle stations from Aksarben Village to downtown Council Bluffs, and more are potentially in store for University of Nebraska at Omaha campus.

“In the future we would like to add 2-4 additional stations on campus to help make Heartland B-cycle a fantastic transportation option for students,” Turner said.

B-Cycle has multiple stations on campus, one near the Milo Bail student center and one on south campus.

To use the B-Cycle program students must have a membership.

One of the several membership options can be purchased online or at the physical B-Cycle station.

“UNO campus is flooded with students every day and many of those students come from off campus,” Turner said. “Bike sharing provides an opportunity for students to get to campus by bike without having to bring their own bike or be responsible for maintenance.”

Turner says the operations manager of B-Cycle, with the occasional help of others, maintains the bikes.

“We overhaul the bikes yearly and check in on them periodically to ensure the tires are pumped up and they are ready to ride,” Turner said.

According to area cyclists, Omaha is not a particularly bike friendly city.

However David Corbin, a now retired UNO professor and avid cyclist, says the city has come a long way when it comes to being bike friendly.

Turner says an increase in safe places to ride including on and off street bike facilities would make a big difference throughout the Omaha community.

“The more safe places we have to ride, the more people feel safe riding, and the more people who ride
make it safer for everyone who wants to ride. It is a virtuous circle,” Turner said.

This year the city of Omaha passed the Complete Streets Ordinance. According to Corbin the ordinance
essentially says streets are for for more than cars.

“Streets are not just for cars, they’re for bikes, walkers and public transportation too” Corbin said.

“You should never plan a city just around cars. You should always take all forms of transportation into account.”

Corbin says just because there is bike friendly rhetoric in the ordinance doesn’t mean there will for sure be improvement, but the biking community is hopeful.

“It’s a national movement…anytime you make a new plan you should take complete streets into account,” Corbin said. “That means planning for all kinds of transportation.” Corbin is responsible for starting the previous bike-sharing program on campus called yellow bikes. Yellow bikes weren’t as successful on
campus as B-Cycle because students were able to damage the bikes and not bring them back without being monetarily penalized.

According to its website, under the B-Cycle program anyone who fails to bring a bike back will be automatically charged 1,500 dollars for its replacement.

Corbin says the B-Cycle program did receive some blow back upon first being put on campus.

“There was one meeting I went to with the sustainability committee where they said ‘we are going to put up signs that say no biking,’” Corbin said.

Turner says getting B-Cycle put on campus was a team effort between several organizations.

“We launched June 20, 2011 with five stations on UNO Campus and Aksarben Village,” Turner said.

“The program was an initiative of Live Well Omaha in partnership
with Blue Cross Blue Shield,Community Bike Project and UNO.”

There is a lot of room for improvement with getting fewer cars on campus and Corbin says more
people using sustainable transportation options such as B-Cycle will help.

“One thing I’ve always wanted to do is tell students at orientations about the other ways there are to
get around,” Corbin said. “I would love for someone to do a study sometime that compares how long
it would take someone to get to campus using B-Cycle versus riding the shuttle…I would venture to
say B-Cycle would be much faster”

Corbin is in search of someone to maintain the UNO cycling webpage, the webpage serves as the
basis for information regarding cyclist news on campus and what’s happening in Omaha.

For more information on the B-Cycle program and to sign up for a membership, visit: https://heartland. bcycle.com/top-nav-pages/ rates-membership/rates2

“By connecting UNO to the broader bike sharing network with stations on campus, students can use a bike sharing bike to get to class, travel between campuses, get some exercise, go to lunch, park further away and more,” Turner said.

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