Rollins College has pressed the pause button on a program that has been providing free bikes on campus for the past 13 years.

As first reported by student newspaper, The Sandspur, the Rollins Sustainability Program announced a pause in the program from the end of the spring semester through the conclusion of Fall 2022, to allow program coordinator, Laura Gustafson-Hullinger, and staff the time to evaluate whether or not they will continue providing bikes to faculty, staff, and students.

The program launched in 2009 and allowed anyone on campus with an active Rollins College ID to check out a bike from the Olin Library on campus, for no cost. Just like you would a book. Bike rentals would last for three-day increments and helmets and lights were also available on request.

The program was the first of its kind in the region, and one of the only free bike library programs in the state, other than that of UCF or the Winter Park Public Library, which was modeled on that of Rollins College – which I should know because I used to work for the Rollins College Sustainability Program and the City of Winter Park, and helped the library to write the grant application to launch their own program.

The reason behind the pause is, of course, money. Gustafson-Hullinger told Bungalower that even though the program, by comparison, is more successful than UCF (Rollins has 50 bikes that were used roughly 850 times by its 3,104 students per semester versus UCF’s program which has 60 bikes for 66,000 students), the pay-off was questionable when they started to look at pandemic-led budgetary constraints.

“At the moment, this is a pause, not a discontinuation. We need to take this time to evaluate the effort and money devoted to the program and see if it’s something we can and should continue to operate in the future.”

– LAURA GUSTAFSON-HULLINGER, ROLLINS COLLEGE SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM COORDINATOR

The program relies on student workers to perform bike checks daily, for roughly 10-15 hours per week, and according to Gustafson-Hullinger, they are looking at a roughly $8,000 gap per semester to continue the program as-is.

Bikes are often the only transportation first-year and international students have when on the Rollins College campus, as students do not have parking privileges until their second year. There are also no public buses that stop there and the school has ceased its shuttle services to Winter Park Village.

Bikes and bike infrastructure are like little free-wheeling examples of democracy at work and free bike programs provide access to jobs and recreation. Free bike programs, like the one at Rollins College, also snub their noses at micro-mobility companies that charge high fees for the convenience of carrying riders that last mile from their cars to their destinations. Those fees make it hard for people with fixed or lower incomes to take advantage, making free versions that much more important.

A final decision on the future of the Rollins College Bike Share Program will be announced before the holidays at the end of the year.

Brendan O'Connor

Editor in Chief of Bungalower.com

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