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Public Bikes and Freshmen Restrictions

When I went to FAU, my dad said I needed two things: a car and a bicycle. He explained, "Everyone in college has a bicycle. That's just how you get around."

And for the most part, he's correct. In a lot of college towns, a bike can get you to most places you need. As universities mature, more and more businesses and services are attracted to the college population, thus concentrating most of the "vital" locations in one spot. Considering the ever-rising cost of tuition at public universities, it's always a blessing when you, as a student, can get around without spending too much money on gas; a bike saves you money for food and beer, the main cash drains of college life.

However, Boca Raton has been slow to adopt a bike-friendly stance, hiding behind the ideas that it's too hot or everybody has a car, so what's the point? It's not that hot, everybody needs a car because we didn't plan the city better with bikes in mind (more bike lanes and concentration of services will change that) and it's good exercise. Freshman fifteen? Not so easy to put on weight if you're biking 4-5 days a week.

Unfortunately, the number of designated bike lanes on main roads in Boca has been scarce (seriously, take a look around next time you're sitting at a stop light) but that has recently begun to change as the City looks for ways to cut down on traffic on "major arterials" like Glades Road. Both 20th Street and Glades have gotten bike lanes, which is an important start, and El Rio Trail has connected with Yamato Road so students can commute back and forth between the Tri-Rail and campus.

It's a good start, really. But we need to start thinking long-term here and consider a growing concept that's proven to be quite efficient and successful: a public bike share program.

Thanks Wikipedia.

As this 2011 Sun-Sentinel article explains, three areas in South Florida - Delray, Broward and Miami - are already signing on. Typically this is how it works:

1) You buy a membership card (day, week, year) if you don't already have one. Some places, like Miami's DecoBike program, will also allow "access passes" for 30 minutes to several hours.

2) Use your card to unlock one of the bikes. Your first 30 minutes are always free. Bike anywhere and return it in under 30 minutes, no charge. After that, they charge you for the time (~$5/30 minutes)

3) Return the bike to any locking station. Each station will have a map showing where else you can go; if it's a good map, it will tell you how long it should take you to bike there at normal speed.

Each place that does it charges a little bit different but that's the basic idea. It's not supposed to break the bank. It's supposed to be like a monthly subway pass, just get you moving to where you need to go every day. Imagine if we could do that in Boca?

Places where "Boca Bike" / "U-Bike" stations could be located:
  • FAU Student Union
  • FAU stadium/Innovation Village plaza
  • Tom Oxley Center
  • University Village Apartments (so that way you have it in four key places at FAU in each of the four cardinal directions)
  • Yamato Tri-Rail (students could then ride up El Rio Trail and dock the bike at one of the four spots above)
  • The proposed new Tri-Rail station at Glades & Military
  • Lynn University (entrance)
  • University Commons
  • Boomers/Cinemark
  • Town Centre Mall
  • Glades Plaza/Town Centre Shoppes (by Starbucks, Moe's, Five Guys)
  • Countess de la Hoernle Park (the new park on Spanish River Blvd, across from the library)
  • Spanish River beach at Spanish River Blvd & A1A
  • 5th Avenue Shoppes (20th Street & Federal); most of the rental bike places have baskets so you could do light shopping at places like Publix or pick up take-away at Pei Wei.
And so on, including potential spots in (or near) student apartment complexes. Notice that all of these places can be reached in 30 minutes of biking, so that's why I didn't extend it all over Boca to, say, 441 and Glades (because 0.000000001% of people would attempt that trip from FAU anyway)

See, this is particularly important because a bike rental program of some kind needs to be in place if FAU is going to restrict freshmen from having cars on campus, a virtual certainty in the next few years. After all, 3478 students live on the Boca Raton campus. Granted, not all of them have cars, but even if 3k spots opened up, that would be much appreciated by commuter students and staff, and would keep the freshmen on (or near) campus on the weekends - which is one of FAU's goals.

Without a car, freshmen would have to rely on either the (unreliable) Palm Tran system, an FAU-sponsored off-campus shuttle route (which we have yet to provide) or bikes that would give students the most freedom about where they're going and when. They could have their own bikes, and a good number will, but bike maintenance can be costly so that's just a decision people will have to make.

In any case, restricting freshmen residents from having cars may drive down the demand for on-campus housing, it's true, and I haven't seen any FAU studies on how many students would prefer to live off-campus just so they can have their car. That's a good question to ask, but with so many colleges doing it now, it's becoming a fairly common thing and I'm sure someone has figured it out. The reality is that the desire to live on campus is pretty strong among freshmen as part of the whole novelty of going to college and they'll be willing to roll with the punches. Sure, they'll complain in the beginning but with the right system in place - bikes, shuttles, buses - it will eventually become a non-issue as people just write it off as "that's the way things are done in college" (like they'll do with the idea of printing out tickets for FAU athletic events).

In fact, over time I'm sure it will become a strength of the school, a selling point. "They even have a bike rental system and you can get them wherever you need to go, so it's cool."



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