Billikens on Bikes set for spring

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A new bike-share program called Billikens on Bikes (BOB) was approved in a vote by Saint Louis University’s Student Government Association in their Oct. 2 meeting. The initiative is expected to place 10 bikes outside of Busch Student Center that students will be free to use throughout any given day.

Under the proposed rules, the bikes will be available starting at 8:00 a.m. every morning until an hour before the BSC closes. Before participating in the program, interested students will have to sign a liability form. Checking a bike out is as simple as giving a school I.D. to one of the desk workers in the Student Center. A helmet will be provided to each student that checks out a bike and the helmets are to be cleaned and disinfected between check-outs.

Billikens on Bikes is expected to begin in the spring once contracts and payments are finalized. Ann Kneztic, the student planning the initiative and SGA’s vice president of academic affairs, intends to purchase bicycles, locks and helmets from Big Shark Bike Company. Big Shark is a St. Louis-based organization that has helped other groups start bike-shares in the past.

Use of the bikes will be granted on a first-come-first-serve basis. The $7,818 initiative is being funded by Wellness Fee dollars, a pool of money generated by a semesterly ‘Wellness’ charge of $90 for every student. Wellness Fee funds are governed by SGA’s Wellness Committee and allotted to students or groups that request support for initiatives that focus on health in a broad sense: physical, mental and spiritual health initiatives all fall under the purview of Wellness funding.

The amount allotted for Billikens on Bikes includes funding for bikes, helmets, bicycle racks to house the program’s bikes exclusively, extra money for repairs to bikes should they be necessary and cleaning supplies for the helmets. The proposed style of bike is the electra-townie, and Kneztic plans to purchase five men’s and five women’s bikes.

According to Kneztic, plans to expand the program depend on how students respond to its initial launch, though she had positive expectations for future growth.

“I have a feeling from getting student interest… [that] even after a semester there is going to be need for expansion,” she said.

Multiple senators expressed concerns that students might game the system by taking a bike every morning and keeping it through the day, denying equal access to others. Kneztic acknowledged the concern and presented the possible solution of placing a time limit on each rental, though she qualified the option by stating that it would be hard to know how to best solve certain issues until BOB was actually in operation.

She expressed hope that the administration might pick up the initiative if it had a large amount of success. When asked about how bike-share programs at other schools operate, Kneztic pointed to University of Loyola-Chicago as an example.

“The way they started it was through the administration,” Kneztic said. “[It’s] a $25 fee to get the bikes, it’s kind of an insurance fee, and if you return the bike with it being perfectly fine within the semester they get that $25 back.” She said that she was hesitant to have SLU students pay for the program directly as it might hamper its initial success.

Kneztic mentioned a possible launch day for BOB to drum up student interest and garner extra exposure, although an opening date won’t be available until the start-up process comes closer to completion.