This week, several students across USF received an unpleasant surprise when they checked their bank accounts. On Friday, the Share-a-Bull bike program began to finally punish those abusing the free service by charging students who misused the bikes.
In an email to all Share-a-Bull users, Outdoor Recreation warned that charges would now be collected regularly and told students to check their accounts for a red balance and a negative sign to know if they had charges. Each student’s account has a credit card linked to his or her profile in case of damage or mistreatment to the bikes.
The previous semester saw an abundance of said abuse, with students racing the bikes down stairwells, refusing to lock them up, transporting multiple riders at once and even attempting to steal them.
Riders took advantage of the free amenity and stored bikes in their dorm rooms, under trees and by their apartments, far from the designated areas, which are easily accessed on campus. Then, when a responsible user logged on to the Social Bicycle app, which hosts the program, to find a bike, they were often faced with the reality of none being near their location.
Within a few months, users had caused over $4,000 in damages, and at least 30 of the 100 available bikes were out of use while undergoing maintenance. Some of the bikes even had their internal computers damaged from ludicrous attempts to steal them.
After realizing the damage students were causing to the program, USF was faced with a tough problem. They couldn’t afford to continue to offer the program for free if a third of the bikes were constantly under repair.
Francis Morgan, assistant director of outdoor recreation, said students and faculty might have to begin to pay to use the bikes. He estimated students would have to pay approximately $10 a semester to keep it running.
Despite the recklessness displayed by riders, USF still wants to offer the service for free. As of now, students and staff simply register for the program, download the app and use the free bikes whenever they want.
The rider can utilize the bicycle for free for two hours with an overage fee of $5 an hour. If the bike is locked up outside of the designated areas or not locked at all, Outdoor Rec charges the user’s account. However, returning the bike to one of the official hubs will add $1 credit to the user’s account.
Not only will this ensure only those who misuse the bikes have to pay, it also will credit the accounts of those who go out of their way to return the bikes, which will come in handy if a user accidently goes over the two-hour limit.
The ability to freely and easily rent a bicycle to ride across the 1,700 acres of USF’s Tampa campus is a gift the majority of students aren’t taking for granted. Few universities offer such a program, and we are fortunate to still have the option to utilize the transportation for free, despite our peers’ conduct.
At the end of last semester, there were over 3,400 active users of the program, with approximately 40 new accounts added, daily. Due to the obvious interest, there is talk of expanding to 200 bikes by the end of our current semester.
USF has found a great solution to the toddler mindset plaguing some of the users. If you fail to abide by the rules, you’ll be fined. This allows the rest of the campus to continue to ride for free, and will, hopefully, dissuade those with malicious intent from using the program.