Misti Roberts has a vision. She has a vision to reduce traffic congestion near campus, to decrease pollution and to make local transportation a little less stressful.
Her plan is to create a community bike program, where bikes will be parked throughout the CSU campus and surrounding neighborhoods. People can ride the bikes whenever and wherever they wish, without having to pay or register for their use.
The program, called Ram Wheels, is set to debut in May 2004. Currently Roberts, a second bachelor’s student studying French, is working on gathering and customizing bikes for the program. She is also working with local businesses, including Recycled Cycles and Lee’s Cyclery, to set up bike sponsorships.
The goal of the project is two-fold, said Roberts, the main project coordinator and a member of the Cycling Team.
“One is to limit the amount of traffic on and around campus and in Old Town,” she said. “The other is to help provide a cleaner environment.”
The bikes will be painted green and gold and will be outfitted with a basket, a light and a map of Fort Collins. They will be parked, unlocked, at green-and-gold bike racks around town.
“We hope that people will use our bikes to go to the store and Old Town, as well as to school,” Roberts said. Roberts said all of the bikes are donated and Recycled Cycles is the largest business sponsor, donating up to 100 bikes.
Recycles Cycles’ store manager, Bob Williams, said the business would also be handling the majority of bike repairs, initially.
“Our long-term goal is to train the Cycling Team to know how to repair bikes properly, so they can take over the maintenance,” he said.
Although the bikes will be left unlocked and unattended, neither Roberts nor Williams is very concerned with the possibility of theft. Roberts anticipates some theft during the first three to four months of the program, but then he thinks the theft incidences will decline.
“The reason we’re not concerned about theft is … we can’t avoid it,” said Roberts. “You have to have faith in society. After a while, theft will go down.”
Roberts said she wants to keep the program user-friendly and that locking the bikes would be an inconvenience to the community.
Williams feels that some of the bikes will be stolen initially, but he said he has budgeted for that.
“The trick is to find a bike that’s going to last and work, but that isn’t a high-theft item,” he said. “Hopefully no one wants to steal a bright green-and-gold bike.”
Ram Wheels is loosely based on the European community-bike model, where citizens can ride a bike wherever they wish to go and just leave it there. Other cities in the United States have implemented similar programs in recent years, including Philadelphia, Wichita, Kan. and Boulder.
Jan Ward, transportation coordinator for the city of Boulder, said the Green Bike Program started eight years ago and although it has evolved into a larger Transportation Resource Center, the program was very popular at its peak a few years ago.
The Green Bike Program was a collaboration between the city and students from the Boulder Valley School District. The students handled the storage and maintenance of the free bikes.
Ward said bike theft was never a serious issue for the Boulder program. In addition to the brightly painted bikes, complete with attached signs and baskets, the program had a lot of publicity in order to get the community involved, Ward said.
“The public became watchdogs for the program,” Ward said. “It really built community.”
Ward said some of the bikes were vandalized but that most simply had worn brake pads – evidence of frequent use by the public.
Roberts believes that Ram Wheels can be just as successful as Boulder’s program and encourages the CSU community to support the project.
“I think it’s good for a university to show concern for its community and especially the environment,” she said.
Roberts is working to get at least 50 small businesses to sponsor bikes. She is also accepting donations of used bicycles and money. Anyone interested in donating can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We will gladly accept bike donations right now,” Roberts said. “The more bikes we get, the better.”