Our View: Question, then bike

DKS Editors

Swipe your card, remove a bicycle from a docking station at the Student Center, hop on, ride downtown, leave the bike somewhere else, go to lunch, repeat.

If Clear Channel Outdoor, the outdoor advertising arm of Clear Channel Communications, brings SmartBike, its bike-sharing system, to Kent State, it may not be long before this routine becomes a reality. The company is still discussing details with the city and the university, such as how the system would be promoted.

Students would have to subscribe to the service, probably for a fee, but it would be cheaper than buying a bike. It’s a good idea – if it could work here.

Docking stations with available bikes would be located throughout campus and in the city. Students could return the bikes to any station, not necessarily the one they got it from.

Anything that connects the campus with downtown Kent can only help the relationship between the city and the university. Any small act that limits greenhouse gases can only be good for the planet.

Some things for the university, the city and Clear Channel to consider when implementing this at Kent State are: How many bikes would be available? Would students see the fee as a worthwhile investment? Would it be a worthwhile investment for the city? How can theft be prevented?

The company has tried offering the service in France and Europe.

In the U.S., the idea has only so far been tried in Washington, D.C., where it’s combined with a robust public transportation system. So far, the D.C. SmartBike system has 10 stations with 100 bikes, according to Clear Channel’s Web site. The system was implemented there this summer. The annual subscription fee to use the service in D.C. is $40.

The idea makes sense in an urban environment, where biking can supplement other public transportation, and often bike paths are available along city streets, connecting areas in downtown urban centers.

But it may not fly at Kent State, where many students drive to campus, and the campus becomes a mess of slush in the winter. Students can be seen biking during the warm weather, but how many take bikes when campus is a solid sheet of ice? Kent State does boast bike paths along its walkways, and the county has invested in the Hike and Bike trail, all which give students a place to ride.

But for the idea to catch on, students have to care about it. So, before such a plan is implemented, we ask the organizers to ask a few students what they think about the idea. There’s nothing worse than spending a large chunk of change and having students not give it the time of day.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.