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Flashfleet Returns with Extended Hours and an Additional LocationPosted March 14, 2011 | Jason Hawk
Just in time for spring, Kent State’s bike-sharing program, Flashfleet, returns to campus this month. The initiative was launched at the beginning of the fall semester.
Flashfleet, a second-generation program, is modeled after a similar program at Washington State University (WSU). Now using a third-generation program, Washington State used the success of its “Green Bikes” to transform the concept entirely, engaging users with self-contained, solar-powered kiosks that allow them to check in and check out bikes from any location.
“It’s exciting to compare ourselves to Washington State” says Marie Supanich, Flashfleet’s student manager. “We anticipated Flashfleet being well received, but after looking at the participation numbers, we’re beyond WSU by almost 280 percent and that’s only looking at the fall semester.”
For the Fall 2010 Semester, Flashfleet registered 1,081 unique users for a total of 4,467 checkouts. This number was achieved using 50 bikes spread out across six locations on the Kent Campus. Comparatively, Washington State registered 463 unique users for a total of 1,600 checkouts for the entire year. This was accomplished using 40 bikes at one location. Both programs were free.
In addition to collecting participation data, the Department of Recreational Services also conducted a user satisfaction survey. Participants were able to provide suggestions on how the program could be improved.
“We are making several exciting changes to the program for the spring semester,” says Kim Rufra, associate director for the Department of Recreational Services. “These changes were a direct reflection of what users said in our survey and they were unanimously approved by the committee overseeing the project.”
The most significant change is the addition of a new checkout location at the Ice Arena.
“We want to make sure that Flashfleet is available to everyone at Kent State,” says Rufra. “By adding a location at the Ice Arena, we are now catering a bit more to our international students who frequently visit the Office of International Affairs, which is located across the street.”
Flashfleet will also be expanding its selection, adding an additional twelve 15-inch bikes to its inventory. These bikes are slightly smaller than the ones currently in use.
Additionally, the program has broadened its hours of operation at several locations and has hired additional student staff members to assist with maintenance repairs. Last semester, Flashfleet relied heavily on the experience of the Department of Recreational Services’ equipment manager to maintain all 50 bikes.
“By hiring students, we’re going to substantially cut down on the time a bike is not in use because of repairs. Now, with a dedicated staff, we can perform preventative maintenance instead of waiting for problems,” says Supanich.
The Department of Recreational Services has also made changes to the check-out process itself. Previously, all of the equipment was checked out manually. This semester, staff members will have the ability to keep track of equipment via the same software platform that is already in use at both the Student Recreation and Wellness Center and the Ice Arena. If all of the bikes are checked out at one location, staff members will be able to check the inventory at other locations and recommend where participants might find available equipment.
“One of our goals with Flashfleet was to increase the biking culture on campus. This spring, we plan on collaborating with Kent Student Center programming to host several free workshops for students that will address overall safety concerns and bike maintenance,” adds Rufra.
Participants should also keep in mind that students are awarded a one-time total of 500 FLASHperks just for using the program. Additionally, one lucky winner will receive their very own Trek 7000 Hybrid bike on Earth Day, April 22. All those who participate in the program, excluding guests, will be entered into the drawing.By Jason Hawk