5,000 miles and counting for KU’s new bike-share program; expansion planned

photo by: Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from Wednesday, April 18, 2018, a row of new KU-themed VeoRide bike-share bicycles await riders outside Stauffer-Flint Hall on campus.

With 12,000 documented rides and more than 5,000 miles ridden, the University of Kansas is celebrating a successful rollout of its fledgling bike-share service.

KU’s Center for Sustainability released those numbers — and a few other interesting figures on the new program — earlier this week over social media. The center’s Facebook post said the number of rides taken (12,000) by KU students and faculty since April is nearly double the number of yellow parking spaces available on campus, for instance.

The findings also include the total number of calories burned (285,600) and the number of members to have signed up, at 2,900. Margretta de Vries, transit analyst for KU Parking and Transit, said the reaction so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Everybody, as far as I can tell, thinks it’s really cool,” de Vries said.

“I have heard one or two people wondering why they have to buy a membership, but that’s because we’re not (requiring) a student fee to help pay for it,” she added. “One or two people out of 3,000 people who have actually ridden the bikes is not a very big percentage.”

Through VeoRide, the bike-share company chosen from a pool of eight providers, the university paid nothing upfront for its new program. Instead, VeoRide gets paid through riders’ memberships and passes, eliminating the need for a student fee.

In April, the company launched a pilot of the bike-share service that distributed 180 bicycles throughout the KU campus. With the start of the upcoming fall semester, VeoRide plans to add 180 more bikes to its fleet. The Journal-World reported earlier this month that the company hopes to continue adding 180 bikes every semester until the fleet reaches 540 bikes.

“At some point, there will also be some e-bikes in the mix, which will make going up the hill almost as awesome as going down the hill,” de Vries said.

She said the electric models contain a torque sensor inside the motor that measures the weight pressed onto the bike’s pedals. The bikes aren’t meant to replace pedaling, but to give riders the ability — through choosing an assistance level from one to five — to ride faster and farther with more enjoyment.

The ultimate goal, she said, is to have e-bikes make up about 30 percent of the fleet.

Last week, the Lawrence City Commission voted to approve an agreement between VeoRide and the city that would allow the company to add about 20 off-campus locations to its bike-share service. The program will continue to be run by VeoRide, at no cost to the city.

Prices for bike passes will remain the same, de Vries said. Riders pay 50 cents for every 15 minutes of use, or can pay for a day, month or yearlong pass, according to the city’s agreement with VeoRide. Passes cost $7 for 24 hours of unlimited two-hour rides, $26 for a month and $100 for a year. KU students and employees are also eligible for discounts on monthly and annual passes.

In the last few months, de Vries said, the bikes have been spotted all over the city. The majority of rides are happening on the KU campus, though some pathways off The Hill are also picking up traffic, she said, including a pathway down Ninth Street to The Merc, another along Bob Billings Parkway toward Meadowbrook apartments, and routes to Naismith Valley Park in southern Lawrence.

“I think the real factor of interest will be what happens when classes start up,” de Vries said. “Will we see an uptick in daily ridership when people come to campus in the fall?”

To that end, the university is offering free two-week trial periods to students this fall semester. At the end of the two weeks, students can opt to sign up for a bike-share membership.

For more information on KU’s bike-share service, visit bike.ku.edu/kubikeshare.

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