Great Strides for Great Rides

a student using the bike share
a student using the bike share
GABBY HARTZE | THE SPECTRUM

Thursday will be a landmark day for Great Rides Bike Share. But nearly every day has seen some record broken.

The economical bike sharing program will not only hit its 100,000th checkout Thursday, but the day will see the installation of more docking stations at the Memorial Union and high-rise residence halls on the North Dakota State campus.

Sara Watson-Curry, Great Rides director of operations, said the program has been “phenomenal,” taking off with more than 7,000 registered users and nearly 2,000 checkouts a day.

“We’re glad it’s seen as a such a valid form of transportation,” she said. “We’re really excited.”

Sharing toys

With 101 bikes and at least 1,500 checkouts a day, maintenance is an issue for Bike Share, Watson-Curry said.

More than 7,200 registered users, about 7,000 of which are students, puts a strain on the bikes.

“That’s a lot of people using it, and we can’t have it perfectly balanced,” she said, adding that “natural problems” do come up.

Senior Brent Hepokoski, a senior in math and statistics, said he’s encountered several bikes with flat tires and bent pedals.

Watson-Curry said Great Rides does biweekly bike maintenance, but it can be difficult to track down bikes when the whole system is moving.

“We’re not omnipresent,” she said, “so if people are checking out a bike and there’s a problem, they can give a call.”

Hepokoski said the lack of dock space at certain times of the day is also a recurring problem, but Watson-Curry said there are solutions.

A B-cycle app allows users to hone in on Fargo’s program and see where dock spaces are available.

Users can also wait for a spot to open up, Watson-Curry said, as “it’s their responsibility to make sure it gets properly docked.”

Freshman Nate Rooney said he’d leave a bike or look for another place to leave it if no dock space is available.

“Yeah, that’s the issue,” Freshman Nate Worms said. “(I’ll) lock it up where no one will take it.”

To tackle dock space problems, Watson-Curry said Great Rides is doubling the dock spaces at the Memorial Union and adding further spaces to the high-rise station Thursday morning.

“Certainly just leaving the bike is not encouraged,” she said. “Look at the app, wait a bit … be flexible and patient.”

Student success 

Watson-Curry said Bike Share has seen most of its popularity with students.

The ease of registering with one’s Bison card has been part of the program’s success, Watson-Curry added, as a separate Bike Share card may not have been as popular.

“I don’t know if we’d have those same numbers,” she said. “At any time of day, they can enroll their Bison card in the program.”

The “healthy transportation” model of bikes can also be just as efficient as a bus ride or car for errands and short trips, Watson-Curry said.

“It may not serve your every need,” she said, “but it’s complementary to a lot of other things.”

Biking between classes and buildings or for pure recreation, students are finding fun and convenience with Bike Share.

Rooney, Worms and Landon Kimm docked their bikes Monday afternoon at the Memorial Union station and said how smooth Bike Share has been for them.

“It’s nice,” said Rooney, an accounting major.

“Very convenient,” said freshman Landon Kimm, a business administration major.

“It’s handy,” said Worms, a management information systems major.

Watson-Curry said students “should feel excited and proud,” as their embracing of Bike Share has empowered the program.

“We want students to feel ownership over the program,” she said.

‘Keep riding’ 

Bike Share saw over 20,000 checkouts in August, and September could be a new record, Watson-Curry said.

Summer saw some different success with the program, as visitors and community members “latched onto” the program, she added. Conferences in downtown Fargo also brought a lot of usage, she said.

Summer had a plenty of day pass usage, which Watson-Curry said, “was really cool.”

She added she’s had “little conversations” with many students about Bike Share’s success, including one student who relearned how to ride a bike this spring with some help from friends in a parking lot.

“It’s a good opportunity for students to get back and forth and is cheaper than driving,” Hepokoski said of the program’s convenience.

Watson-Curry said a few months are remaining for Bike Share’s use, before the 101 bikes go into hibernation.

The bikes are not built for heavy snow or icy roads, she said, and Great Rides wants to ensure rider safety by offering a seasonal system.

Bike Share will stop for the season sometime in November, Watson-Curry said, with an exact date to be determined in October.

Until then, she said to “keep riding, keeping having fun.”

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