- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Auburn University students looking for a quicker way around campus won’t have to look far starting this summer. By mid-2015, the university will boast a free bike share program for students, thanks to Charleston, South Carolina, based Gotcha Ride.

“You’ve seen them in big cities like New York and London,” Parking Services Manager Don Andrae said, explaining the free bike share program will be similar to paid ones in large cities.

The 75 blue, three-gear bikes will be situated in corrals in high-traffic areas like campus dorms, Tiger Transit hubs and the Haley Center concourse. Students can borrow a bike for 24 hours without a fee.

“We don’t care (where students take the bikes), as long as they brought it back to where they got it from in 24 hours,” Andrae said.

The bikes are run completely through Gotcha Ride’s smartphone app. Students can download the app, crate a user profile, use the app’s GPS to find the nearest corral, picks out a bike, hit “unlock bike” on their phone and head to class.

“It gives students the chance to eliminate the need to walk home alone at night,” said Griffin Blackwelder, business development manager for Gotcha Ride. “.Quick and easy free way to get around.”

He added the company is offering two models of bikes, both with low maintenance needs like Kevlar seats and puncture-resistant tires.

GPS units are housed in the bikes to gather information on how they’re being used, which racks are the most popular and if more bikes are needed. The app also boasts a feature to report damage or needed maintenance.

Griffin has been working with other universities to bring Gotcha Ride’s bike share programs to campuses across the state, and the initial launch is set for summer 2015.

The company is also looking for a brand to sponsor the first nationwide collegiate bike share program, which allows Gotcha Ride to provide bikes to universities for free.

While Auburn has the option to buy more bikes in the future, the 75 initial bikes will not cost the university.

“Gotcha would handle all of the maintenance, logistics, placing the bikes,” Blackwelder said.

Since the bikes operate via a smartphone app and don’t require kiosks, all Auburn will need to provide are corrals for the bikes.

“We’ve got a bunch of new bike racks on campus,” Andrae said, adding the racks will serve as corrals.

The university has been looking at bike share programs for the past three or four years to find one that fits Auburn students’ needs.

“We’re just trying to come up with new ways.because there’s no parking,” Andrae said.

Gotcha Ride was started in 2009 at Florida State University. It’s now spread to four other campuses_Auburn, Georgia Tech, the University of Alabama and the University of Florida_which boast small, 100 percent electrical vehicles for students borrow.

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Information from: Opelika-Auburn News, https://www.oanow.com/

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