The arrival of spring and freshly blooming flowers spurs the reappearance of the green bikes, which have been in storage for the winter.
In 2009, after suggestions from students, the Green Bike Program was introduced to campus with the arrival of 35 dark green, single-gear beach cruisers.
Doug Goad, manager of equipment and facilities at the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness, said that those bikes did not last as long as had been hoped, and the school had switched companies and bought slightly different bikes.
Fifty-one yellow bikes were purchased from Pibby’s, a local bike shop, and were “holding up a lot better” than the original bikes, Goad said.
When the Green Bike Program was still in the planning stages, one point of contention with purchasing single-gear bikes was how expensive they were compared with other bikes, but it was decided that these bikes would be best.
“We researched campuses from all over and most have gone with the single-gear bike,” Goad said. It would have been too costly and repairs would have been too much if cross country bikes had been purchased instead, he said.
Tom Roberts, who has been the director of recreation and fitness at the university for more 20 years, said that it had been planned all along to have single-gear bikes.
“We intentionally got heavy duty bikes with no gears,” he said. “It was part of our plan to keep the bikes on campus.”
Roberts believed that the purchase of the newer, heavier duty bikes cost around $300 and the older bikes were slightly less, although an exact number could not be confirmed.
“Repairs are constantly going on,” Roberts said, “but the bikes are out 24 hours a day.” He said countless students rode the bikes multiple times a day, which was a lot of value for the money the university had spent.
Goad said that only a few bikes had been thrown into Westhampton Lake, where it is rumored most of them end up.
“It hasn’t been as many as the myth, probably only three or four,” he said, “which was anticipated from the beginning. You have to keep a smile on your face when one comes out of the lake and expect stuff will happen. Students will be students.”
With multiple students riding each bike daily, repairs are to be expected, although it is unknown whether the repairs are from overuse, neglect or abuse. Marti Tomlin, the assistant director of facilities, believes it is a combination of all three. “We encourage students to use kick stands and bike racks and to treat the Green Bikes as if they were their personal bike,” she said.
If a bike was brought back in complete disrepair, Goad said that the parts of the old bike were put to good use.
“If it isn’t cost-effective to repair the bike, the parts are recycled to make new bikes,” he said. “We don’t throw anything away.”
Roberts said there was a graduate student who had been in charge of the bikes last year, but now, since the student no longer attended Richmond, it had been difficult to find a part-time student to take on the responsibility.
“We would like to find a student to pay just to look after the bikes,” he said, “but we don’t have one right now.”
Even with the bikes that end up in the lake and the ones that are broken beyond repair, those who work with them still believe that the program has been a good addition to campus.
“We think it is very beneficial,” Tomlin said. “This is evident from the president’s support of the program, other universities contacting us for guidance in developing their Bike Share programs and from the large number of students you see riding bikes whenever you are out on campus.”
Goad said it was frustrating at times seeing so many damages, but the abuse had lessened since the program began.
“We remain very optimistic,” he said. “Overall, seeing students riding the bikes is really encouraging.”
Contact reporter Charlotte Brackett at firstname.lastname@example.org