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Bike-sharing program at UALR abruptly canceled; school searches for alternatives

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Photographs by Stephen B. Thornton

FILE PHOTO: Students at the University of Arkansas Little Rock makes their way to and from classes on foot and by bike along a shaded pathway on campus September 2014 in Little Rock.

The bike-sharing program at University of Arkansas at Little Rock was abruptly canceled last month when the company providing the service retrieved the bikes, a university employee said.

Toni Boyer Stewart, a Web marketer/analyst at the school who serves on its sustainability committee, said San Francisco-based Spin terminated its dockless bike-sharing program July 16 in favor of offering electronic scooter rentals.

When it did so, it stopped providing bike-sharing services to several universities, including UALR, Utah State University and Indiana State University, she said.

The program started at the school in February.

Stewart said the company gave no warning of the change, but Spin’s contract with the university stated that it could cancel the bike-sharing program anytime.

“I saw them one day while I was driving home from work,” she said “They were throwing [the bicycles] in the back of a truck.”

UALR sent out an email to employees Aug. 2 informing them of the change. The email noted that users who had purchased a membership and wished to get a refund would need to contact the company.

There were a little fewer than 300 bikes in the Little Rock school's fleet, according to Stewart.

The school is considering switching to a new bike-sharing provider and is weighing its options, she said.

Although the bikes were popular, the employee said, their dockless nature meant that they were sometimes blown over by the wind or not parked “responsibly.” Spin's dockless bikes didn't need to be returned to a dock when the rider was finished with them and could be unlocked with an app. At times, the orange bicycles would litter the ground.

According to Stewart, students, faculty and staff used the bikes, but she couldn’t provide statistics for how often they were ridden.

The school is considering going through the city of Little Rock for its next program or contracting with bicycle rental service VeoRide, she added.

Comments

LR1955 says...

Sounds like an uber stupid idea to begin with.

Posted 10 August 2018, 7:11 p.m. Suggest removal

Foghorn says...

The ‘vision’ of bike sharing is awesome. The reality is quite otherwise. Idiots can’t even be relied on to return their grocery carts to a nearby cart station mere feet away. What makes anyone think bike renters are any different. The ONLY way this will work is if renters are charged a refundable deposit based on their return of the bike to a docking station. When the bike is docked, they receive the refund. Are you going to walk away from say $25 by not docking the bike? Probably not.

Posted 11 August 2018, 1:52 p.m. Suggest removal

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