BY KAYDEE HALL
This past month, Alma College and the Gratiot Community Foundation rolled out a new “Bike Alma” program. The bike share program has been in the works since early this year, with two locations: Starbucks and the Stone Center for Recreation with five bikes at each pickup station.
The bikes work through an app, Movatic, which will unlock and lock the bike upon pickup and return. The lock mechanism itself is solar powered, which cuts down on environmental impact.
To operate a bike, you must download the Movatic app, link a credit or debit card, and then pay approximately By Sam Nelson Politics $5 to bike four hours or less, though you can choose to use it for a longer period of time. Unfortunately, the locks have not been working properly, causing a delay in the official launch of the bikes.
“We want to make this service free for students and have a nominal fee for community members,” said Tammy Rees, Director of Campus Recreation and Conferences.
Currently, the bikes will charge students and community members alike, even though students can still check out mountain bikes for free from the Adventure Recreation program. For the time being, only five of the bikes are operational, with the other five out of commission due to hardware issues.
Rees and the college hope to have all of the bikes fully functional in the near future. The good news is that since the Electra bikes are so simple, having no speeds or extra gears, the bikes themselves are less likely to break down and require maintenance.
Chris Maltby at Terry’s Cycle was heavily involved in the process of starting and releasing this program, helping to find a bike share company for the college and to build the bikes, as well as fitting the locking equipment and rear racks to the bikes. There is an ongoing partnership with Terry’s Cycle to perform maintenance on the bikes as needed. “We live in a small town with a small college, and to make the most change in the most positive way, the city and the college need to band together,” said Maltby.
“Bike Alma!” is a catalyst to get the community and college to interact, by bringing Alma residents onto the campus. “It’s not just Alma College, it’s Alma as a town, as well,” said Prarthita Nath (’22).
It will be a resource for alumni, visitors, community members and college students alike, while offering both an eco-friendly and healthy alternative to driving. “Biking cuts down on carbon dioxide emissions and is a very healthy, fun way to get place to place,” said Maliena Boone (’19). All of the Electra bikes have baskets attached to the back of them, creating an alternative to driving to the grocery store or work.
“We had a student that would check out an Adventure Rec bike every day for the whole school year – rain, sun or snow – to get to his internship at an elementary school,” said Rees. She hopes that this program will be useful to more students in this way, and more convenient, with more locations than just the Rec Center.
This kind of program is unique in a small town, but has grown more and more popular in larger cities all across the world. New York City has Citi bikes, and towns such as Ann Arbor and Pittsburgh are introducing similar bike share programs. According to Rees, the college would like to purchase more bikes to add to the ten existing docks, with a new pickup stations at SAC and the Opera House once it opens.