By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Since the wheels began turning on its Orange Ride program, Oklahoma State University has seen students, community members and visitors taking advantage of the orange bicycles for rent.
Director of Parking and Transportation Services Steve Spradling said he was surprised that his expectations were exceeded for the summer months. A group of students from Mexico rented most of the program’s fleet of 30 bikes for June.
“It’s kind of hit and miss, but surprisingly we’ve been busier than I thought we would be,” he said.
Orange Ride employs student workers who assist in renting, maintaining and repairing the bicycles.
“We’re strictly manning it with student employees to try to keep our costs down and also provide them with a good, steady job during the summer,” Spradling said. “During the school year, it will take a couple of students.”
OSU student Will Stamfield has been working in the shop officially since May. He said common issues are flat tires, tube replacements, general tuning and care.
“Our rentals, I would definitely say that it’s a great alternative to driving all over campus if you need to commute,” Stamfield said.
Spradling said an additional 20 bikes, slightly different in that they are step-through frames, have been ordered in response to demand.
“It’s been great because of the international students, which we knew we had a need for (the bikes) because the last several years we’ve had a few requests here and there,” he said.
He said the program falls in line with OSU’s goal of being one of the healthiest campuses in the nation.
“Ann Hargis has been a big push in this, too,” Spradling said. “She’s been promoting wellness on the campus and we’ve talked about bikes and a bike program for the last several years and it really just took somebody and it being our department, really, to step up and take ownership to make it happen. The need just continued to grow until we said, ‘All right, it’s time. We need to do something.’”
Spradling cites studies that show cities with a good transit system are healthier because people walk or bike to bus stops.
As the Orange Ride program was in development, ideas from students were received. One idea that never panned out was to have renting kiosks around campus and the city.
“We worked around that idea a lot and looked at some places,” Spradling said. “Tulsa transit has actually got a system like that and you can move bikes around.”
However, he said the issue became upfront costs. Spradling estimated one kiosk can range anywhere from $20,000 to $25,000 to purchase and install. He spoke with officials from the Business Improvement District in Stillwater who shared similar thoughts.
“We didn’t think that was the right fit for us given our resources and funding at the time,” he said.
He didn’t discount the idea of the program evolving, but said they’ve only been at it for three months.
“It may morph into something different in the future, but we wanted to keep that price low,” he said.
In addition to the bike shop, located inside the OSU Multi-Modal Transportation Facility, a maintenance area was placed outside for bike owners to air up tires and do their own work.
“I know that long-range facility planning and grounds are redoing bike racks on the north side of the Classroom Building and they’re going to put in a maintenance stand there, also, because the first day we put it in, somebody was using it,” Spradling said.
For the costs associated with the program, OSU has offered advertising space on the side of the bikes.
“We made that public when we had the grand opening and we had advertisers approach us immediately about doing some advertising on the bikes, so the idea behind that was to try to offset the cost of the bikes and the maintenance on the bikes, so we can keep it as cheap as possible for the students,” he said.
Prior to the ribbon-cutting, Spradling said the department would have to tag and clean up abandoned student bikes left at bike racks across campus. He said many students purchased a personal bike and with no means to transport it following graduation.
“We have the issue of not enough bike racks because we have a lot of bikes locked up and nobody using them,” he said. “Then we get complaints that there are no places to park a bike.”
He said his department tags abandoned bikes multiple times and attempts to find the owner if it has a required OSU sticker before having to confiscate it.
“We get people that have just moved away or no contact whatsoever,” Spradling said. “We research them and they’re not in school anymore.”
Anyone wishing to rent a bike can do so for $2 a day, $8 a week or $30 a semester.
A waiting list is available for those who know they will need a bike in the fall. Each renter is required to take a 10-minute course online to be eligible.
Spradling said he sees the program going nowhere but up.
“In the future, I think it’s going to continue to grow,” he said.
For more information, call 405-744-2453 or visit parking.okstate.edu.