Project aims to rent bikes

By Erin Kelley

The Illini Bicycle Project plans to allow students the opportunity to rent bicycles for free, according to the project’s Web site. The project plans to launch the Unit One/Allen Hall program by August 2006. Alexander Herder and Kannan Puthuval, both juniors in LAS, came up with idea for the project over the summer.

The juniors’ larger goal is to spread free, simple and automated bike use throughout campus. Herder and Puthuval are collecting a pool of about 30 bicycles for students to check out and use as they please.

“We have collected 17 bicycles so far,” Herder said.

Each bicycle will be fixed and painted. The bicycles will be locked up at Allen Hall, where residents and staff will have access to them. In order for a student to check out a bicycle, they will swipe their University I-Cards, which will open a cabinet with the keys to each lock. There will be ID chips in each key, allowing for the system to track who has what bicycle and how long it has been in their possession.

Each person is allowed to rent the bike for up to 18 hours at a time and will receive a reminder e-mail to return the bicycle after the 18-hour time limit, according to the Web site. If the bicycle is not returned the person could face several consequences including buying a brand new bike.

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The project is targeted toward those who are interested in using bicycles but consider it a hassle to bring one to school and maintain it, Puthuval said. The program, which the students are funding themselves, is hoping to encourage students to consider bikes as an alternative form of transportation to buses or cars. Most bicycles that are brought to campus sit at the bicycle rack all day except for the possible 30 minutes it is being used to get to class, Herder said.

“Bicycles, like petrochemicals or food products, are a limited resource, and most of the time they’re wasted sitting on outdoor racks or out in the garage with the grills we never actually get around to setting up,” Herder wrote on the Web site. “We want the University and the surrounding communities of Champaign and Urbana to be able to take advantage of these currently dormant resources.”

At the moment, Puthuval and Herder are looking for money to pay for locks, paint, repairs, and the checkout system, Puthuval said. They are gaining the funds needed through personal donations, grants and an adopt-a-bicycle program, Herder said. The program coordinators will also take bicycle donations.

Once the project has been established, Puthuval and Herder would like to expand and have a “co-op bicycle shop” as well. The bicycle shop would be owned by the community so anyone could come in and work on bikes. It would also be a place for children to learn to work with bicycles.

But before the project can expand, the juniors will need more support.

Puthuval and Herder have approached the Environmental Council about possibly getting involved in the project. They hope to eventually involve Campus Recreation and University Housing.