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Students benefit from new bike-sharing program

| Wednesday, August 23, 2017

This year, LimeBike — a bike-sharing program introduced to campus by the administration and student government — will sweeten the ride at Notre Dame. The program, which operates in several different places across the country, aims to give students an affordable and sustainable mode of transport.

The bikes are currently available in South Bend and on Notre Dame’s campus, and are coming soon to Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross. Patrons gain access to a bike by scanning a QR code on the bike with an app available to download to a smartphone. After doing so, students may ride the bikes anywhere in the given area — either South Bend or Notre Dame’s campus. Once they have reached their destination, a student would simply lock the bike and leave it wherever he or she is. After that, the bike is available for anyone to use.

This easy accessibility and convenience is perfect for Notre Dame students, junior Caitlin Murphy, co-director of student life, said.

“Student government is so excited to bring the LimeBikes to Notre Dame’s campus this year,” she said in an email. “I think they are perfect for our students as they are easily accessible, affordable and useful. I have been thrilled every time I’ve seen them being used around campus over the past week.”

Junior Prathm Juneja, the student government chief of staff, said South Bend contacted the University as the city worked to implement LimeBikes.

“I stayed in South Bend this summer working for the mayor’s office,” he said. “They were implementing LimeBike. I contacted the University, they said LimeBikes had contacted them and they handled it. They asked me about price and I negotiated a student discount.”

The timing was fortuitous, as a student government committee had been crafting a bike-sharing proposal when LimeBike contacted the school, Juneja said. He noted that “a lot of credit” goes to administrative offices in the Main Building for the work they did to bring the program to campus. Juneja said the program has been off to a positive start.

“In general, it has been a great start,” he said. “Students can take them wherever, and LimeBike handles maintenance, as well as picking up and dropping off bikes to even them out. All we had to do [was] give them the land.”

However, Juneja also discussed several problems that are being looked at. He noted that some students don’t have smartphones, which makes it impossible for them to use the bikes. Given the expensiveness of smartphones, the requirement to own one to use the bikes defeats the affordability appeal. Proposed solutions include an alternative payment method or a voucher system. There are also security and abuse concerns, as there have been some reports that bikes have been thrown into the St. Joseph River and at least one was put into a tree on campus, Juneja said. However, stealing them is difficult because a security alert and alarm goes off on the bike if someone tries riding it without scanning it, and if unlocked bikes go missing, the company can see who the last user was. Regarding this issue, Juneja said Student Government hopes students “will do the right thing and treat the bikes well.”

But, Juneja said, the future looks bright.

“LimeBike seems to like us,” he said. “We’re really happy with the amount of people that are using it. We hope it continues and expands.”

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