April 21, 2016 | by Leah Cavalier
Campus Bicycle Service’s Popularity Surprises Creators

The Geaux Vélo bicycle sharing program is attracting more students than previously anticipated in the fall, and program directors are now considering expansion.

“It’s just catching on a little faster than we thought it would,” said Gretchen Vanicor, director of the Office of Sustainability.

Vanicor said she is seeing a lot of students utilizing the bicycles every day and the number of rides per day is increasing.

Vanicor said she is “pleasantly surprised” with the number of students who have signed up for the program. There are 795 registered students who have memberships with the program. Vanicor said students quickly figured out they could rent the bicycles, and there were 200 registered members before the program officially launched.

Laura Williams, 20, sophomore public relations major, said she has wanted to ride the bicycles since she first saw them on campus.

“How cool is that?” Williams asked. “Having bikes at your disposal on campus.”

Williams’s friend invited her to ride around town on April 7. Williams registered for the program on her laptop and went for an evening ride, which ended at Girard Park.

Membership is free and so is the first hour with a bicycle. The second and third hours are $1 each, and hours 4-8 are free.

Vanicor said she is very happy with this usage-fee structure, because it makes the program self-sufficient and saves the university and students money.

Williams said the sign-up process was very easy. She was considering buying her own bicycle this semester because her classes are so far away, but she decided not to when she became aware of the program.

“When the bikes are on campus, you know, it’s a lot easier for me to actually use,” Williams said.

She said getting students on the bicycles the first time is usually enough to keep them coming back to the program.

“I’m a big believer in getting people on the bikes just to see how fun it is,” Vanicor said.

Williams was one of the students charmed by the nostalgia of riding a bicycle.

“It was exciting,” Williams said. “I haven’t ridden a bike in close to six years, so actually getting on the bike was an experience.”

Vanicor is able to view data of how many students rent the bicycles and where they take them through a computer program linked to the GPS in each bicycle. She said students are using the bikes to get off campus and enjoy the community, to commute from Cajun Field and to perform errands such as going to the grocery store.

Vanicor said she hopes to eventually have more bicycle stations around campus in addition to the stations at the Student Union, the Girard Park Circle Parking Garage and Cajun Field. Two potential spots include in front of the Olivier Parking Tower and at the Conference Center.

Before adding new stations, however, Vanicor said they would like to expand the existing stations — especially the Union and Girard Park stations.

“I think that there is definitely room for expansion,” she said. “I think that the demand is there.”

Vanicor said the Office of Sustainability staff was strategic with where they placed the bicycle stations to keep startup costs low. They chose spots that already had concrete slabs, communication abilities, electricity and security cameras. She also said the installation was less than $1,000 for each station.

Originally, Vanicor was hoping to have the program started by last October, but the program was pushed back a semester and officially launched on March 21.

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