SmartBike may come to city, campus

Ashten Haswell

Kent could become one of three cities with bike program

SmartBike could soon bring its means of transportation to the city of Kent and Kent State.

Last week, the northeast Ohio division of Clear Channel Outdoor met with the city of Kent and members of Kent State to discuss the possibility of enacting its bicycle-sharing program, SmartBike.

“SmartBike basically is throwing a pitch to the city of Kent, as well as Kent State University, about a rental program for bikes, where anyone who subscribes can rent a bike,” said Greg Jarvie, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students.

SmartBike uses computerized bikes, specialized docking units and a smart card. If interested in renting a bike, users would have to apply for a membership to get a smart card. The card would then allow them access to renting a bike.

The specialized docking units would be throughout the city and on the campus. If a user wants to rent a bike, all he or she has to do is go to a docking station, swipe his or her card and a bike is unlocked from the station.

Jarvie said the program is unique. The point of it is to get people on bikes and get them around town. It is designed for short, quick trips, the average rental time is around 3 hours.

Jonathan Bey, executive director of the Undergraduate Student Government, said he thinks the program is a great idea and that it will benefit the university. He also said it would help with the issue of trying to divert traffic away from the campus.

SmartBike originally started in Rennes, France, and from there it has spread across Europe. In 2007, the program was implemented in Washington D.C., the only location in the United States with SmartBike.

Besides the city of Kent, the idea of the SmartBike program has only been suggested to one other location in the United States.

“The division of Clear Channel Northeast Ohio thought by looking at the city of Kent and Kent State University, it would be an ideal location for it,” Jarvie said. “The company is flexible and is willing to work within the needs of us as customers.”

Now that the idea of the program has been introduced to the city and to Kent State, many things need to be discussed.

“The city and the university will now get together as a group to make some decisions,” Jarvie said. “If everyone likes it then we would have them come in and do a market analysis.”

One of the decisions to be made will be about the advertising and promotion of SmartBike.

“Clear Channel would again work with the city and the university to advertise; they would get the rights to put up kiosks around town and on campus,” Jarvie said.

The issue of cost also needs to be worked out, so prices are reasonable for students and the community. Jarvie said he expects it to be a minimal cost. To put it into perspective, the current cost for SmartBike in Washington D.C. is an annual payment of $40.

Other things to be discussed are the location of the docking stations and the location of the advertisement kiosks, so they follow city and state regulations.

Jarvie said the only downside he sees in the program, being that it is a mode of transportation, would be having to deal with the weather come winter time.

Contact student affairs reporter Ashten Haswell at [email protected].