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Bike share rides into Towson with rollout on university campuses

The Baltimore Sun

February 5, 2018


Towson University and Goucher College students have a new option for getting around campus that some residents of neighboring communities hope will relieve some parking congestion in greater Towson.

San Francisco-based Spin held soft launches of its bike-sharing program at both universities last week. The pilots are meant to gauge ridership before a potential expansion in the spring, according to company officials.

About 100 of the company’s dock-less, bright-orange bicycles were distributed throughout Towson University’s campus on the first day of spring semester. Another 30 were placed around Goucher College.

The institutions’ bike share company of choice works differently from companies such as Baltimore Bike Share by allowing users to return bikes anywhere, rather than at designated stations.

To ride, users search for an available bike through the Spin app, which uses GPS trackers to locate nearby bikes. The system uses a cellphone application to both lock and unlock bicycles at the user’s destination of choice, according to Pamela Mooney, Towson University’s director of parking and transportation.

“I thought we’d be slower on people using it, but the first day they were out there people were using them,” Mooney said.

Despite cold temperatures and minimal marketing, Mooney said ridership data provided to the school showed that more than 200 Towson University students and staff signed up for the app and took more than 100 trips total.

The dock-less system was attractive to university officials because it did not cost much money to get the program started, Mooney said. While a docked system would have cost $300,000 to $400,000 for 100 bikes, Spin sets up at no cost to the school and makes its money by charging for rides, she said.

Users may rent a bike for $1 for a 30-minute single trip or pay for monthly or yearly passes. Anyone using a university email receives 50 percent off regular rates.

“The only thing we’ve incurred cost on is a couple thousand dollars to promote them throughout campus,” Mooney said. “It’s a minimal cost to us and minimal from the management standpoint.”

The bike share, which took two years to bring to campus, was also attractive because it helps address a university goal to be more environmentally friendly.

Mooney said university officials have worked on adding a bike-share program on campus for almost two years under directives of the President’s Climate Committee, which formed to address a pledge the university president signed in 2007 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

“Alternative transportation is one of the [parking and transportation department’s] areas of responsibility as well as trying to be green and minimize our carbon footprint,” Mooney said. “We hope that students will migrate to the bikes versus the buses.”

Spin also launched its bike share program at Goucher College last week, according to school spokeswoman Tara de Souza.

The college agreed to partner with the company and bring about 30 bikes to Goucher based on a student’s suggestion, she said.

Goucher freshman Gabriel Silver, 19, said he pursued Spin after using the company’s bikes in Washington, D.C. He emailed the company to find out if they had considered Goucher College as an expansion site only to find out that Towson University was already on track to offer the bikes.