Letter: ISU bike share program continues to develop

There has been quite a bit of discussion surrounding the bike share program lately, so, as the overall lead on the project, I would like to give students an update on where the program currently stands, the plan for moving forward and why I strongly feel that this program stands to potentially be a huge benefit to Iowa State.

Since the industrial design studio in spring 2014 completed work on three conceptual bike designs, quite a bit of work has been done to advance the program. Over the summer, I formed the Bike Share Committee, half of whom are students with the other half being faculty and staff.

This committee has representation from Recreation Services; Facilities, Planning and Management; Office of Sustainability; Government of the Student Body, the industrial design program and several students groups, such as the ISU Cycling Club.

This committee is responsible for overseeing the project and making decisions regarding how the program moves forward as well as providing a longterm knowledge base about the program.

This semester, more than 40 students from industrial design, software engineering, mechanical engineering, computer engineering, computer science and community and regional planning are directly involved in working on the project.

Outcomes from this semester’s work will be two fully-functioning rideable prototype bicycles, a working docking station prototype, development of software and a phone app and an implementation plan.

But most importantly, the community and regional planning class will deliver a study on overall transportation on campus, including CyRide, vehicle traffic, pedestrians and bicycle, along with proposed changes and a feasibility study on how a bike share program might fit into all of that. This is something that the university is very interested in as well.

There was a meeting of major parties involved in the bike share program Sept. 17, which included Tom Hill, senior vice president for student affairs, GSB President Hillary Kletscher, GSB Speaker of the Senate Gabe Walsh, the industrial design department and myself.

At that meeting, we discussed the future of the program, what the program would accomplish and how it would be funded. Both Hill and the industrial design department reaffirmed their commitment to the effort and their financial support.

The College of Design will also potentially support the program financially, along with private donors in the future. Despite the recent failure of the bike share funding bill in the GSB Senate, after talks with Senate leadership, I will also be returning to the Senate with a reduced request in the near future.

Moving forward, there will be additional classes working on the project in the spring semester, which will focus on additional software development and program logistics.

We are currently in the second semester of what will likely be a four semester research and development effort. We are currently developing a more detailed longterm plan, but the actual implementation would likely occur two to four years from now, depending on a variety of factors and if the developed program is right for Iowa State.

I want to stress that we are currently working on the development and applied research of a bike share program for Iowa State and not fully committing ourselves to actually putting a system on campus.

This program is a huge educational benefit to the students involved as they get to apply their skills to a real-world project.

Even if this project is an eventual failure, I would argue that failure is an excellent learning opportunity and a huge component of eventual success. This project has also already begun to spark quite a bit of interest both in Iowa and across the nation, even absent of promotional effort by those involved in the project.

We’re the first university to even attempt in-house development of a bike share program from the ground up. With us being the first, there are no precedents to follow or examples from which to draw. While that might make some nervous, I find it absolutely exhilarating that we’re literally setting the precedent for the future of college bike share programs and bike share programs in general.

This project also shows the university that students are actively invested in solving the transportation issues currently facing campus through a student initiative that was started by students, is run by students, is being worked on by students and is for students.

I have the upmost confidence in the unbelievable talent we have here at this university and hope you will join me in supporting them and this incredible project too.

Any students with questions or comments about the program are encouraged to get in touch with me at [email protected].