Kent State offering free bike rentals starting today

Adrienne Savoldi

Officials say it will reduce traffic congestion

Students who need alternative transportation on campus can now rent bikes free of charge.

Kim Rufra, associate director for the Department of Recreational Services, said the Department of Recreational Services has combined with several other groups to create Flashfleet, a new bicycle rental program on campus. But with only 50 bikes available, Kent State officials expect them to go fast.

“I’m really excited. Everyone involved with the program is really excited,” Rufra said. “We welcome feedback from the university as we move forward.”

Starting today, students have the ability to sign out a bicycle, helmet and lock using their FlashCard identification. The six rental locations are Dunbar Hall, the Student Center, Stopher Hall, Student Recreation and Wellness Center, Tri-Towers and Twin Towers. Each location has five to 12 bicycles available.

Bicycle rental is free if the user returns the bike, helmet and lock undamaged and on time. Students can rent a bike for a day on any day except Sunday until October 31.

Flashfleet bikes must be returned before 9:30 p.m. to their rental location on the day they were checked out. Students’ guests and faculty members can also partake of Flashfleet if they’re 18-years-old.

During the winter, the bikes will be stored in one of the Centennial buildings and will be available again March 1. Summer days and hours are still being determined.

Kent State is not the first college to do this.

Geography professor David Kaplan, who is researching bike-sharing programs, said there are at least five other colleges and universities with bike-sharing programs.

But that number “may increase because more and more universities are starting to do this,” he said.

Rufra said bike rentals will help eliminate traffic and parking congestion, and riding a bike around campus could help those without cars.

With the overall volume of students, there is a chance the demand will be higher than the supply. If the bike program takes off successfully, though, they’ll look into buying more bikes.

Fifty-one bikes were purchased, but one of the bikes will be available as a giveaway prize for Earth Day.

Those who participated in Flashfleet over the course of the year have the chance to win it.

For the past three years, students could rent bikes from the Student Recreation and Wellness Center at a cost, which, according to Rufra, was not highly used.

Kaplan said they eventually want to extend the program beyond campus, allowing students and Kent residents to rent bikes from any campus location and return them at any solar-powered docking station. The stations would be portable and could easily be moved from one location to another. The renter would be tracked via an identification card and could return the bike to any docking location.

“It’d be like a Red Box for bicycles,” Kaplan said.

Contact Adrienne Savoldi at [email protected].