Kent State’s Bike-Sharing Program Returns with Extended HoursPosted Mar. 10, 2011
With spring just around the corner, Kent State University’s bike-sharing program, Flashfleet, will be returning to campus on Friday, March 11. The initiative was launched at the beginning of the fall semester.
Flashfleet, a second-generation program, is modeled off a similar program at Washington State University (WSU). Now utilizing a third-generation program, WSU 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,” said Marie Supanich, Flashfleet’s student manager. “We anticipated Flashfleet being well received, but when 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 was done using 50 bikes spread out across six locations. Comparatively, WSU registered 463 unique users for a total of 1,600 checkouts for the entire year. This was done using 40 bikes at one location. Both programs were free.
In addition to collecting participation data, Kent State’s Department of Recreational Services conducted a user satisfaction survey. Participants were able to give suggestions on how the program could be made better.
“We are making several exciting changes to the program for the spring semester,” said Kim Rufra, associate director for Recreational Services at Kent State. “These changes were a direct reflection of what users said in our survey and were unanimously approved by the committee overseeing the project.”
The largest change is the addition of a new checkout location at the Kent State Ice Arena.
“We want to make sure that Flashfleet is available to everyone at Kent State,” Rufra said. “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 across the street.”
Flashfleet also will be expanding its selection, adding an additional twelve 15” bikes to its inventory. These bikes are smaller than the ones currently used and should be easier to use for shorter individuals.
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,” Supanich said. “Now, with a dedicated staff, we can do preventative maintenance instead of waiting for problems.”
The Department of Recreational Services also has 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 university’s 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 can go to find available equipment.
“One of our goals with Flashfleet was to increase the biking culture on campus,” Rufra said. “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.”
Participants also should keep in mind that students are awarded a one-time total of 500 FLASHperks just for using the program. FLASHperks is the loyalty rewards program for students at Kent State. 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 contest.
For more information about Flashfleet, please call Kent State’s Department of Recreational Services at 330-672-4REC, visit online at www.kent.edu/flashfleet or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A Kent State University student uses a bike from Flashfleet, the university’s bike-sharing program, at the Kent Student Center. Flashfleet returns to campus on March 11.