Share-a-Bull bikes receive upgrade

Since its first roll out at the beginning of the month, the Share-a-Bull bike program has recorded over 3,800 miles from over 1,000 users. 

The final 10 bikes were released Thursday morning, bringing the total to 100 bikes ready for students, faculty and staff to use for up to two hours a day for free. 

“You don’t have to own it, you don’t have to maintain it, you don’t have to have three kinds of locks so that nobody steals it,” said Francis Morgan, assistant director of Outdoor Recreation, about the convenience of the bike program.

Though the bikes were previously required to be returned to specific hub stations around campus after use, they can now be locked at any bike rack on campus. This is more convenient for students to travel around USF, Morgan said, since the poor GPS connectivity on campus presented problems when reviewing if bikes were actually locked in the proper hub locations.

“This is the only system currently in the world that does not require stations,” Morgan said. “It’s controlled by each individual bike, so any rack is a good rack.”

Additionally, there will now be a $1 credit added to the student’s Social Bicycles — the app used to unlock the bikes — account if they return the bike to one of the hub stations, which are located around the edges of campus.

“We changed the hubs to be set up on the outskirts of campus so those commuter students who park in the Y lots or in the park-and-pay lots, they can come and just ride a bike around campus instead of taking their car from spot to spot,” said Crystal Bissada, communications and marketing officer of the Campus Recreation Center.

To maintain the bikes, each morning a team of three students returns all bikes to their designated hubs, checks tire pressure and alignment and ensures there are no major damages or problems that would need to be taken care of by bike repair staff. There is also a team of three management staff that handles everything on the back end, such as charges and user accounts.

Because of a built-in GPS tracker in each of the bikes and the thick U-lock that also goes through the tire, there is no need to worry about theft. Additionally, $50 will be charged to any user who leaves a bike locked off campus.

So far, students have been excited about the program.

“The other day I saw someone taking a selfie and he was like, ‘Yeah, man, these things are awesome!’ It’s just really good to hear things like that, that kind of candid response to something we’ve been working over two years on,” Bissada said.

The convenience factor makes this program extremely useful for students like John Huynh, a freshman majoring in biomedical sciences.

“I’m a commuter so there’s no way to bring a bike to campus, so this is an easy way to get around,” Huynh said. “And the two hour time limit is perfect.” 

Students can use Share-A-Bull by downloading and registering on the Social Bicycles app, available on both Google Play and the App Store. By using the app, students can see where available bikes are on campus and request a free code to unlock the bikes.

One update the Social Bicycles developers are working on is the ability to check out multiple bikes at once. This could be problematic if students want to ride bikes with non-USF students such as friends or family members who are visiting.

“Right now, your first bike is good for two hours, but if you have a second one out during that time, you’ll start getting charged the hourly rate,” Morgan said. “We’re hoping that the system gets fixed.”

The official launch of the program is today, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. held in the Marshall Student Center Amphitheater.

“To see the students really engaging with the program and intentionally being better about their environment and their physical well-being, I think those are really the main objectives of this program,” Bissada said.