In an effort to reduce traffic on campus and to maintain its "green" lifestyle, the University of California, Irvine (UCI), has introduced a new bike-sharing program called ZotWheels.
ZotWheels, launched Oct. 9, was inspired by other campus bike-sharing programs and a trip to a local outlet mall. "Our associate director at the time was at a mall and saw a stroller rental system," explains Lynn Harris, a planner with the university's Parking and Transportation Services department. "He said, 'I wonder if this could work for bicycles,' so we worked with [the stroller rental] company and created ZotWheels."
With help from Central Specialties Ltd., the company that manufactures the self-service stroller machines and provided the hardware, and Miles Data Technologies, which provided the software, the 28-bike program was born.
With four different locations on UCI's campus, ZotWheels, which is currently going through its testing period, will charge its members an annual fee of $40 to utilize the service. Those eligible are students, faculty and staff at the university with a valid UCI identification card.
Harris says potential members must participate in a safety course when they register online. Once the course is completed, the new member will be issued a membership card.
ZotWheels, which cost roughly $200,000 to implement, is a self-funded program. "We receive money through self-funded programs like parking permits," says Harris.
Members will be able to obtain the bikes by scanning their RFID (radio-frequency identification) cards at the vending machine-style stations. A bike will then undock from a row of stalls.
Additionally, members will have up to three hours of usage. If the bike is not returned or is damaged, there is a fee of $200. However, Harris does not anticipate that being too much of a problem. "Because Irvine is a very safe city, we're hoping that those issues won't be frequent."
If a bicycle has any damage, there is an e-mail address and telephone number for damage reporting. In addition, there is also a bicycle report team that checks for any problems with the bicycles. Parking and Transportation have a special arrangement with the bike shop on campus that will handle all repairs.
As an incentive to sign up new members, the first 250 people who sign up for the service will receive a membership kit consisting of a bike helmet, a bike lock, a water bottle and a light.
"We've received a lot of good publicity," says Harris. "We are very excited about the program."