TRU’s sustainability office has launched a two-wheeled solution to the demand for parking at the local university with a new e-bike sharing program.
Electric bicycles, also known as the e-bike, look just like any ordinary bike, but come with an electric motor to provide a cyclist with some extra pedal-power.
James Gudjonson, director of Thompson Rivers University’s sustainability office, said he believes the electric bicycles will be popular with students this coming fall semester after seeing some initial success rolling out the program over the summer.
The program has been in place for about three months now and so far the office has been inundated with requests.
“Right now the bikes are out almost all the time [and] it’s hard to get a bike. You have to book almost a week in advance,” Gudjonson said.
Similar to checking out a library book, the dozen e-bikes the sustainability office has in its fleet are loaned out to students, faculty or staff free of charge for use up to a week at a time.
“They can use it again and again, but they can [only] use it for a week straight,” said Gudjonson.
The bikes are a good alternative to taking the bus for students who need to get to work, school or run errands on their own timetable.
“For some students that work late hours when the buses aren’t running it seems to be working quite well, so we hope to add a few more bikes to the fleet over the fall,” he said.
TRU’s sustainability office launched the program in an effort to increase the variety of transportation options on campus.
“As the campus grows and parking — and parking stalls — become more of a premium, we want to increase the alternate transportation options and make it accessible for students, faculty and staff,” Gudjonson said.
The office also wants to promote a healthy lifestyle on campus and reduce the university’s carbon footprint through the e-bike program.
The newest models of e-bikes can provide a cyclist with enough juice to travel approximately 60 km, and saves users money by cutting down on the multitude of costs associated to driving a car such as parking, insurance and gas, Gudjonson said.
“You can ride right to your door,” he said.
An e-bike can cost about $2,500 but if used as the primary mode of transportation should pay for itself in a year, Gudjonson added.
When it comes to locking up the bikes, users still need to rely on an old-fashioned bike lock, but the sustainability office is working with a software developer to create an electronic locking system that will enable cyclists to lock and track their e-bike via an app.
With residential buildings being erected on campus for the first time, the sustainability office also wants to see e-bike charging stations around town and is in early talks with talking to the City of Kamloops about creating them.
“We think this is going to grow, not only on the campus, but hopefully across the city,” Gudjonson said.
The e-bikes can be booked online through TRU’s website, and the program is one of three ride-sharing options the university has in place.
Students, faculty and staff can also take advantage of a free hybrid electric vehicle rental program and the university’s partnership with the American car-sharing company Zipcar.