- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2016

SALISBURY, Md. (AP) - With more students choosing two wheels over four, a new pilot program at Salisbury University was rolled out this semester, offering short-term bicycle rentals at a low cost.

Rob McPherson, co-founder and CEO of Baas Bikes, said whether due to financial restrictions, environmental concerns or simply a distaste for dealing with parking, students on campuses nationwide are forgoing vehicles.

“The average American spends $8,000 every year on their car,” he said. “With a bike you can spend a fraction of that and have full mobility, and that’s sort of the shift we’re trying to help facilitate. We’re trying to make bikes more accessible to people.”

McPherson said Baas Bikes was formed out of that mentality.

The way it works is straightforward. Bikes across campus are located, reserved and paid for entirely through a phone app.

When a user needs one, Bluetooth technology in the bike’s frame can be unlocked via that same app. It can then be taken away, ridden for as long as desired and then returned to any bike rack on campus.

The service costs $1 per hour, and both the phone app and registration are free.

“There’s no commitment to it, which is part of the accessibility we had in mind with the company,” McPherson said. “If you end up in a rush one day, or just want the exercise, the bikes will be all around you. If you don’t need it, you won’t have to spend a penny.”

Since their campus launch on Aug. 29 - the first day of the fall semester - 542 unique accounts have been created, he said.

“The traction has been really great so far and it’s been growing steadily as word has gotten around,” he said.

Wayne Shelton, SU’s director of campus sustainability and environmental safety, said that while the campus’ agreement with Baas Bikes is only for one year at this point, it seems promising so far.

“We’re really happy with what we’re seeing so far though,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing the total use later on in the year so that we can assess whether or not we’re going to keep working with them.”

Along with reducing automobile usage and encouraging exercise, he said one goal of a bike share program such as Baas Bikes is to help eliminate the upwards of 50 bikes that are abandoned on campus at the end of each semester.

“That’s certainly waste that we want to eliminate, but they’re also an eyesore and an imposition on the campus, which has to either dispose of them or store them until we can sell them,” he said.

At the end of their one-year commitment with the company, Shelton said the university will be examining the data to determine whether it’s a good fit for the campus.

Diop Crimmins, a junior at Salisbury University, who has neither a car nor a bike, said the service seems like a good way to get off-campus on an otherwise dull day.

“It’s totally worth the dollar or two it’ll cost me to roll out, get lunch, and have something that’s a little fun to do,” he said. “If I want to go out to the zoo with my friends, it would be a few bucks each.

“It’s cheaper than a movie and way better exercise.”

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Information from: The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., http://www.delmarvanow.com/

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