Operator of Share-a-Bull Bikes extends off-campus access

Share-a-Bull Bikes’ operator, CycleHop, has various memberships for students, including a $7-per-month plan. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

In addition to walking, driving, skating or taking the Bull-Runner to class, there’s a lesser-known fifth option for speeding up a daily routine: the Share-a-Bull Bikes program, which now operates a bit differently.

The program historically allowed students to make short trips across campus using shareable bikes, which can be found and returned to pre-designated areas. Since July 1, ownership of the program has transferred from USF to CycleHop, the largest smart-bike share operator in North America.

The switch will enable a more affordable price for students and offer a larger allotment of available bikes, according to USF Share-a-Bull Bikes’ website.

The most significant change with the program’s new ownership is the expansion of where students can ride a bike.

According to Kerry Bailey, Florida’s regional marketing manager for CycleHop, USF students are no longer limited to just sharing bikes on campus.

“Students will reach full connectivity,” Bailey said. “If they take out a monthly student membership, that gives them free rein and access to the bikes on campus but it also gives the access to the bike share system in downtown Tampa and downtown St. Pete.”

Two different membership packages are available for those looking to ride their own shareable bike this semester, as well as a pay-as-you-go option, CycleHop’s website says.

Students can purchase a $7-a-month membership that will allow them to ride for an hour each day. To save money, a one-time $59 plan can be purchased that allows students to ride 60 minutes a day for an entire year. Without a membership, students can use a shared bike for $8 per hour.

Before CycleHop, students were given five minutes of free riding per day and were charged 10 cents for each minute thereafter. The program used to offer a $15 monthly membership, according to USF Campus Recreation.

Abigail Baker, a senior majoring in marketing, finds the new payment plans better in terms of saving money.

“The price for a monthly membership has basically been cut in half,” Baker said. “The main reason I was interested in riding a bike was to save money and the new plans just make it better.”

Although official locations have been designated to lock up the shareable bikes during and after use, Bailey says students that live on campus have an extra luxury due to locks near residence halls.

“Something we are able to do on campus is students being able to lock their bikes to any public bike rack on campus,” Bailey says. “This means if they’re running late and they’re hopping on a shareable bike from their dorm they can just drop it off and lock it up outside.”

Patrick Nowak, a junior majoring in psychology and avid Share-a-Bull bike program user, is pleased with the changes brought about by CycleHop.

“Sharing bikes was not necessarily bad before, but it is leaps and bounds more convenient now,” Nowak says. “There are far more places to lock your bike up, and using the app ‘Social Bicycles,’ I can see all the available bikes in my area.”

If students, for whatever reason, cannot lock their bike before their designated riding time is up, $3 will be charged to their account, according to Bailey.

Emily Mayer, a junior majoring in environmental policy, says she has rarely experienced issues locking up her shared bike.

“I have never personally had to pay the $3 fee because finding a lockup area is not hard,” Mayer said. “Even if I could not find one eventually, the fee is so small it would not be a big deal if I had to pay it off.”

A notable result of CycleHop’s involvement is the added convenience for students who participate in the program, Bailey says.

“We like the idea of students coming into school and not needing a car,” Bailey says. “Cars are expensive, and if you’re bringing your own bike to campus and sharing space with roommates, it is not always the best. You won’t have to worry about the bike being stolen and maintenance will take care of issues. We like the idea that we can take care of students and create an environment for positive transportation.”