One USF service continues to fuel students who opt out of driving cars on campus, instead allowing them to rent bicycles and repair their own for free.
The Borrow Our Bikes program, which is based out of the Campus Recreation’s Outdoor Resource Center, enters its second semester with nearly double the amount of bicycles offered in the fall.
Outdoor Recreation coordinator D.J. Pollock said the program was originally laid out as a graduate student’s internship project and was eventually approved by Student Government, though it doesn’t mark the first time USF has tried lending out bicycles.
“Back in USF’s history, they did have a bike-share program where bikes were lent around campus, but shortly after it got started, bikes were all destroyed and some went missing,” Pollock said. “That’s why the program now tracks through student IDs.”
Under Borrow Our Bikes, students with a USF ID can sign a liability form and check out their choice of a cruiser or mountain bicycle, along with a lock, key and optional helmet.
Bicycles must be returned before 10 a.m. the next business day to either the Outdoor Resource Center or an overnight hooded bike rack located behind the Campus Recreation Center (CRC). There is a $10 late fee for each day a bicycle is late.
CRC’s website also shows how many of the current 47 bicycles – 30 mountain bikes and 17 cruisers – are available at any given time.
Pollock said the program has expanded to about twice as many bicycles, partially because student demand for weekend rentals got so high.
“By 4 or 5 p.m. on a Friday, there would be no bikes left,” Pollock said. “With about 40 bikes now, so far, what I’ve seen in the first few weeks of the semester is that we’ve been pretty much OK in keeping up with demand.”
In its first semester last fall, the program recorded 1,548 bicycle checkouts and 261 student repairs.
Amy Phillips, an Outdoor Resource Center staff member and a sophomore majoring in public health, said student repairs have ranged from mending broken equipment to merely borrowing a bike pump.
“Just say you needed to put air in your tires, you can come in and do that,” Phillips said.
The Outdoor Recreation staff has been trained for basic bicycle repair, such as patching tires and adjusting brakes. Cycling-savvy students can perform their own repairs. All repairing is free, except if students buy and use any of the Outdoor Resource Center’s cycling merchandise.
“We allow students to bring their own bikes in, so if they aren’t using the bike-share program, they’ll still have the opportunity to get something out of the program,” Pollock said.
In the future, Pollock said he hopes to add a skateboard and longboard repair station, and get the necessary equipment like board wrenches and bearing presses before spring break.
However, he said he doesn’t plan on expanding Borrow Our Bikes to include rentals of boards.
Kevin Ratnasamy, a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences and member of the Bicycle Club at USF, said he has used the repair station to mend a vintage road bicycle he had bought that was badly damaged in an accident.
“They have all the necessary tools and everything,” Ratnasamy said. “One of the mechanics there, Michael Bair, I’ve become pretty good friends with … and he taught me a lot about bikes and the history of repairs.”
Ratnasamy said it might also provide a cheaper alternative to resources like the Tampa Bay Bike Co-Op, which “has a really big collection of parts,” but requires a $50 yearly membership for students with IDs.
Though he hasn’t borrowed a bicycle, Ratnasamy said he has recommended the rental aspect to his friends.
“If you don’t have a car and you just want to borrow a bike to take a fun ride or go to the store, they have the bikes necessary for doing that,” he said.
The Outdoor Resource Center is located in CRC 013 and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.