TAMPA — The idea of using a car to get from class to class on the University of South Florida's 1,700-acre campus can be enticing.
Graduate student Karina Moorman commutes to USF from an off-campus apartment. Though Moorman said she has never done it, some of her friends use their cars throughout the day to get to classes and avoid the sticky heat.
A new bike share program called Share-A-Bull now gives students the ability to choose biking over driving at no cost.
"The bikes are really useful when you're trying to go from building to building, because now you don't have to cut into studying to take the long walk somewhere else," Moorman said. "I have a lot of friends who are now starting to use them instead of driving."
Share-A-Bull had its soft rollout in early September. Organizers initially worried that students wouldn't buy into the program, but data collected by the university shows more than 1,300 students have signed up for Share-A-Bull and each bike is getting used about eight times a day.
There are now 100 Share-A-Bull bikes on the USF Tampa campus after the university put the last 10 bikes into circulation at a kickoff event last week. Students can ride free for up to two hours a day. After that, the charge is $5 an hour, up to $25 each day.
Francis Morgan, assistant director of USF Outdoor Recreation, said the target participants for the bike share program are students who commute to campus, students without vehicles and faculty.
The idea of using a bike without maintenance costs is what initially compelled freshman international student Subhrajyoti Pradhan to check out the program. On Sept. 28, Pradhan walked out of his on-campus dorm to find his own bike had a flat tire.
"With these bikes I don't worry about that," Pradhan said.
The bike share program is a partnership between USF's Center for Urban Transportation Research and the Campus Recreation Center. The smartphone app students use to check out bikes and the bikes themselves were purchased from Social Bikes.
The forest green bikes are slightly bulkier than a standard fixed-gear. A black box over the rear wheel contains GPS tracking and a number pad for students to check the bikes in and out.
The bikes can be locked up at any bike rack on campus. Students get a $1 credit on their account for bringing them back to certain hubs where students are more likely to check them out.
Yu Zhang, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at USF, developed the idea for Share-A-Bull two years ago and got funding for the program through USF's Student Green Energy Fund.
Zhang said she came up with the concept after surveys conducted by her students showed most USF students, faculty and staff were making at least one extra car trip every day.
"Besides driving to and from campus, students and teachers were using cars to go to lunch or shopping or even from building to building," Zhang said.
Zhang and Morgan are working on another grant proposal that would bring 100 additional Share-A-Bull bikes to campus. There also are talks between the university and the Coast Bike "sister program" in Downtown Tampa to install Coast Bike racks on campus as the company expands farther north, Morgan said.
"We hope that soon we can also serve the population of students who need to go off campus as well as those on campus," Morgan said.
"Not only are we increasing the amount of exercise students are getting, we are reducing carbon emissions at the same time."