Bikesharing on UI campus allows students to ride without commitment


Lisa Chasanov

Veo bikes in front of the Champaign County Courthouse

By Lisa Chasanov, Summer Editor

When walking down Green Street on a sunny Champaign-Urbana day, it is not uncommon to be greeted by a fleet of bicycles on roads, sidewalks and bike lanes alike. A sustainable and efficient means of transportation across the University campus, bicycles are a popular choice among students hoping to save money and time.

In recent years, a bikeshare firm has enabled students to participate in the bike craze without making a large financial investment or attempting to store a vehicle safely on campus. Veo Micromobility, a California-based bikeshare company, rents out its bicycles and scooters to community members through an app, which allows users to start and stop a “ride” at their convenience.

Since late 2018, Veo has maintained a partnership with the University, offering its pedaled bicycles — and more recently, its electric scooters — for hourly rent at hubs across Champaign and Urbana. 

According to a statement posted by the University’s department of facilities and services on May 18, a pilot program evaluating the use of motorized bicycles on campus is underway. The University will collaborate on the program alongside Veo throughout the summer of 2023. 

According to Sarthak Prasad, sustainable transportation assistant at Facilities & Services, the introduction of Veo’s vehicles to the University’s campus was a response to requests from students and community members alike.

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    “We’ve had students asking for bike share for a long time and it’s been in the campus bike master plan — as well as the Illinois Climate Action Plan — to introduce bikeshare to the campus as a viable, sustainable and affordable transportation option for our students,” Prasad said.  “Veo, the University of Illinois and the cities of Champaign and Urbana were in an intergovernmental agreement … and in December of 2018, they launched the first program.”

    Prasad said that the partnership between Veo and the University has always included input from local governments.

    “We are always connected with the cities of Champaign, Urbana and Savoy,” Prasad said. “We always consult with them and talk to them. Veo has contracts with the cities of Champaign and Urbana as well as the University.”

    According to the University’s statement, the common goal in establishing this partnership was to bring bike sharing to the campus community with safety concerns and community needs in mind.

    Improving mobility options for students, faculty and staff continues to be one of the University’s top transportation priorities,” the statement said. “The pilot is the latest example of collaborative efforts to offer greater bike sharing availability and flexibility while maintaining the highest safety standards throughout the U of I’s jurisdictional locations.”

    The University’s statement describes the use of “Geofencing restrictions” in order to regulate usage of the bikes and protect pedestrians as the electric scooters are officially introduced. According to Google, Geofencing is a practice that uses GPS to change the ways that devices or software behave within certain established boundaries.

    The statement said Geofencing would be utilized to enforce various “no-ride zones,” which included all established quads on campus, as well as the trails of the Arboretum. 

    According to Prasad, the summer’s pilot program will also prioritize pedestrian safety concerns by restricting where users can end their rides on Veo vehicles.

    “With this particular vehicle, the Cosmo e-scooter, there is a GPS technology that is in use,” Prasad said. “They’re much more accurate and we can regulate where they are parked on campus. For example, we have no ride zones and … restricted parking areas. Users cannot put their bicycles right in the middle of the sidewalk, on the bike lane or in front of a building.”

    According to the University statement, the e-scooters are additionally not allowed to be used on campus sidewalks and “multi-use shared paths.”

    “Since most of our university streets have either a bike lane or there is a shared lane available, the experience should be more cohesive,” Prasad said. “Most of our streets, especially the ones that are serving the campus, are 25 miles per hour — and streets that are on the periphery are 30 or 35. On campus with the lower speed limits, the bicycle users may be more comfortable, especially since they’re going to be in a bike lane.”

    Upon the program’s end on August 7, the University’s statement said that the pilot program would be evaluated using “ridership data and community feedback.” This evaluation process will allow the University to use input from community members when adjusting rules for use of these bikes during the fall semester.

    “At the end of the program, the different departments at the University will consult with the Facilities managers and users to see what their experience has been with the vehicles,” Prasad said. “If there are minor concerns, we can work on those, but if there are any major concerns, we’ll have to evaluate. We will have to see what happens in August, but if there aren’t any concerns, we can make this permanent in the fall or spring semester.”

    According to Prasad, Veo and the University encourage suggestions and comments from students and community members to help make this partnership work for Champaign-Urbana and its residents.

    “For us, it’s been a very good experience partnering with Veo and we are very much looking forward to doing this,” Prasad said.


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