Everyone has those days when they just don’t feel like walking to class on the other side of campus. Some students drive their cars and park closer, but what effect might this have on the environment?
These were some of the thoughts of Alyshah Aziz, a Wake Forest alum.
“I kind of found [driving] to be a little absurd,” Aziz said, who graduated in 2016. “Just driving three minutes for convenience when it would probably be quicker to walk anyway.”
So she decided to take action.
As a freshman, Aziz came up with the idea of a bike share program and took it to Dedee Johnston, the chief sustainability officer.
“She said at least two people per month come to her and pitch the idea of a bike share,” Aziz said. “Nothing ever comes out of it.” But that didn’t stop her.
Aziz was a part of CHARGE!, a leadership organization on campus. With her group, she began working on creating this program.
Bike share programs have become popular in some cities, including Winston-Salem. Zagster is a bike share program with bike stations located in three areas of the city that people can check out at an hourly rate.
In a world where the climate is being affected negatively by carbon emissions, switching from a car to a bike would be a better solution in the long run. A 2015 study by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy showed that if 14 percent of travel in the world’s cities was done by bicycle by 2050, carbon emissions would be 11 percent lower.
After months of hard work, including biweekly office visits with Johnston and a campus-wide research survey to assess demand, Re-Cycle came into fruition. Aziz was a junior by then.
Re-Cycle is now headed by the Office of Sustainability and Outdoor Pursuits. The program is open to the entire Wake Forest community where students, faculty and staff can rent out a bike for the semester.
The Office of Sustainability posts a Google Form at the beginning of the semester for bike rentals, which are available on a first come, first serve basis. A small fee covers maintenance, repairs and storage. A new bike is $10 for the semester and a refurbished bike is $5.
Instead, it turns out, students using the program aren’t as focused on the environment as much as other reasons.
“I cannot get anywhere without my bike now,” said senior Emily Claire Mackey, a Re-Cycle bike intern. “I just don’t know how to allocate time at this point because I’m so used to it.”
Students often rent bikes for the convenience and the ease of travel around campus.
“I can easily just hop on my bike and go wherever I need to on campus,” said Kayla Heilig, a junior who takes part in the program. “I joined the program not necessarily for sustainability reasons, but I felt like I was being active.”
The Office of Sustainability doesn’t have a way of tracking a difference of carbon emissions on campus since the program started, but it’s apparent that the bike share has gained a lot of traction from the high demand of bikes.
“One thing I know the program struggles with is being able to provide enough bikes,” Heilig said. “I wish more students could get them.”
This is partly due to funding and space for the bikes.
“Our biggest goal has just been getting our fleet size, in terms of number of bikes, to meet the demand,” Mackey said. “We have never marketed our program before and just through word of mouth we have so many people who want to use it.”
The success of this program can be seen through the demand of bikes.
“I think it’s important to have this long-term and short-term rental option,” Aziz said. “It’s especially helpful for international students because they don’t have cars.”
Whatever the reason may be for using Re-Cycle, students seem to be finding some benefit.
“I really like the program’s commitment to getting student’s the bikes they need,” Heilig said.