University introduces bike share program

Caroline Hroncich

The University President’s Environmental Sustainability Committee has thought up a new way to make the University’s campus more environmentally friendly. PESC was developed on campus to make the University carbon neutral by the year 2050. This year, the committee introduced a bike share program in partnership with Devereux, “one of the oldest and largest providers for of behavioral healthcare” in the United States. 

The program was designed for students who need to travel off-campus and do not have an alternative transportation option. It consists of 30 used bicycles, all of which are freely distributed to Villanova students. In addition to the bike, students are provided with a lock, winter storage and free maintenance. The program has been so successful thus far, the waiting list for bikes next semester is currently 50 names long. 

Amanda Esposito, a University Business Student and Bike Share participant said “It’s convenient, and it’s cool to be able to get involved in sustainability at Villanova. I live off campus and don’t have a car, so the bike share was a great way to get around without having to rely on the shuttle and be environmentally friendly at the same time.” 

Liesel Schwarz, the University Campus Sustainability Manager, said that the Bike Share was born out of a similar program developed at Haverford College. From there, a subcommittee of students on PESC decided to adopt the program on Villanova’s campus. 

Allen Landis, a Villanova University Masters Student, and one of the collaborators of the Bike Share Program, says bike share is an easy way for students to increase mobility, while being conscious of sustainability at the same time. 

“When we first sat down to figure out how to create and manage the program,” Landis said. “We realized there were numerous issues we needed to resolve including liability, storage, repairs, costs, safety, etc. In order to solve all of those, we first had to find a source for the bikes, and there were many options. We ended up partnering with Devereux, a behavioral healthcare facility located in Devon, that repairs used bikes and sells them.” 

Devereux, the program’s partner organization, works with individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. 

The non-profit arranges several work opportunities for the individuals involved with the program. Some of these opportunities, Schwarz said, include a bike repair shop. 

During the semester Devereux sends individuals from the bike repair program to Villanova’s campus to do maintenance work on any bikes that might need it. 

“It’s fun to see students engage in something they haven’t necessarily been a part of before, like riding a bike,” Schwarz said. “It’s fun seeing the students the first time they’re on the bike and try to figure it out because every bikes different, and when they finally get to see the smile on their face and it’s healthy, it’s carbon free as far as emissions go, and it’s a great way to reduce congestion. It’s nice to see a program like this that’s so accepted by the students.”

In addition to the Bike Share Program, PESC has organized other events in order to promote sustainability on the University’s campus. Recently the committee organized Campus Sustainability Day on Oct. 22, a campus wide event created to promote sustainability. 

During Sustainability Day, the group sponsored Mt. Trashmore a time-lapse display of all of the trash on campus that accumulated over the day. 

In addition they held a Sustainable Career Panel, during which students could learn about sustainable career path options. 

They have also been sponsoring the “Kill the Cup” Campaign, in which students are encouraged to use re-usable alternatives to paper cups. PESC will also host a talk by Richard Alley, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for climate science research. 

Schwarz says, the group hopes to continue making an impact on campus, and host more sustainability related events in the future. 

The Bike Share, Schwarz continued, will be expanded in the Spring Semester, with the addition of 9-13 new bikes. Students who wish to participate in the future can register online by visiting the University Sustainability website. 

“The support and excitement regarding the Nova Bike Share has been astonishing,” Allen Landis said. “We expect to grow the program annually as long as we can continue to obtain funds to buy more bikes. In the long term, if students continue to support the program and new campus dorms retains more students on campus, the model could shift to where students swipe their Wildcard to take a bike from a bike rack, and ride to another bike rack on campus. That would be similar to bike share programs you see in large cities like New York and Philadelphia.” 

With the expansion of the Bike Share Program, University students will be afforded environmentally friendly transportation options. This continuing dedication will, in the future, Landis says, allow the University to significantly decrease the University’s environmental impact.