This month UNC Wilmington became the first public university in North Carolina with a bike share program of UNCW’s status. Hawk Wheels is a bike-sharing system that allows students to borrow a bike to travel from point “A” to point “B” using smart technology. The bike share provider, Gotcha Group, is “the nation’s most advanced and sustainable bike sharing program.”
Starting Nov. 15, several smart bikes were available for students to ride, but come January 2017, the full-fledged program will have 70 bikes available at 10 stations.
“[When choosing the station locations,] the most important thing is convenience,” said UNCW Alternative Transportation Coordinator Nick Cannon. He had to consider the space available because he did not want to pour new concrete.
In January, stations will be at Randall Library, Osprey Hall, Belk Hall, Cornerstone Hall, Wagoner Hall and Lot K. A station at the Amphitheater will also serve the Fisher University Union and the Fisher Student Center.
“If we reduce the amount of personal bikes on campus, then we don’t have to spend thousands of dollars every year adding new bike parking” said Cannon.
The university police collects hundreds of abandoned bicycles—600 on average—each year. By law, these bikes have to be impounded for at least 90 days at the police station, but they eventually get donated to the Brigade Boys & Girls Club.
“Students over the past several years have been really wasteful when it comes to their own bikes,” said Cannon.
For the first year, Hawk Wheels is funded by the student transportation fee. However, in the future, Cannon said he hopes that local businesses will take an interest in sponsoring the bikes and having a presence on campus.
Gotcha Group and Cannon recognize that every new program has a learning curve. Students will be responsible for the bike when riding, but the goal is not to charge fee after fee. Currently, there is an out-of-station fee ($10) and an out-of-zone fee ($50), but both can be avoided if students return their smart bike to a designated station. An out-of-zone fee will be charged if a student abandons their bike off-campus.
UNC Wilmington will be the first university to offer two different membership plans with Gotcha Group. The point-to-point plan offers students an hour of riding per day at no extra cost. “If you’re just looking to get from place to place pretty quick, the point-to-point is absolutely the best option” said Cannon. Students can reserve a bike for up to ten minutes before riding, guaranteeing transportation between classes.
The lifestyle plan is for students who prefer to bike for errands and exercise. It offers four hours of riding per day with a membership fee of $25 per year. If a student exceeds their allotted time on either plan, they will be charged two dollars for every extra hour.
“This campus and its terrain are very conducive to cycling” said Cannon. He hopes Hawk Wheels will be a great way for students to safely choose biking.
To get started, students should download the Social Bicycles app to register and track their carbon emissions saved and calories burned.