Senate Reassesses Rent-A-Bike Program

Photo courtesy Calvin Bike Club Facebook page

Photo courtesy Calvin Bike Club Facebook page

As Rent-A-Bike enters its third year, student senate plans to re-evaluate the future of the program. Senate hopes to gather student input throughout this process of reassessment.

The program has already faced several rounds of re-evaluation.

Senate’s bike initiative launched in 2010 as the Community Bike Project with the aim, according to current bike program director Joel Altena, of offering an “efficient and effective way to get around campus.” Senate distributed 40 yellow-painted bikes around campus that students were free to ride from place to place on campus.

The failure of the Community Bike Project resulted from bike vandalism. Altena recalls bikes found on top of buildings and in the Sem Pond.

In 2011, Senate rebooted the bike program with 80 bikes purchased using an initial investment of $18,000 from the college. In 2012, senate purchased another seven smaller bikes for $2,100.

Altena began his position in 2013, which he labels the program’s “most successful year,” and he aims to replicate. During that first year, Altena rented out every working bike he had available, a success he attributes the program’s success to wider marketing efforts and student demand. “There are a lot of students who can’t bring their bikes,” observes Altena.

About 20 of the 58 bikes available for rental this semester have not yet been rented. However, Altena and J.B. Britton, associate dean of campus involvement and leadership, are optimistic. “By the end of the month we will have them all rented,” said Britton.

Britton says senate initially over-estimated demand for fixed-gear bikes and short-term rentals. The high demand for long-term rentals and geared bikes led to senate’s removal of short-term options altogether; the program now offers only semester and year-long rentals. “If we move forward with assessment and continued investment,” said Britton, ”we would only buy geared bikes.”

The program faces another problem in theft and damage, which both Altena and Britton estimated caused the loss of 10-12 bikes in the program’s three year history. Rent-A-Bike charges renters a fee of $300 for a lost or stolen bike, with a $50 discount if the student files a police report.

Senate has not yet replaced the stolen bikes, but looks to make an additional $7,000 investment. “Before we do that,” cautions Britton, “we would want to get some feedback.”

As part of next steps for the program, Senate plans to sell old bikes to students and use proceeds to purchase new ones.

Ethan DeVries, head of the senate team assessing the program, aims to ensure the program remains in operation and meets the needs of the student population. “Moving forward, we will survey how students are liking it and how we can make it better,” said DeVries. “Based on their opinions we will see what we can change.”