UA bike valet takes off in second year

A bike valet employee parks a bike.

The University Bike Valet has seen a huge jump in the number of people utilizing their bicycle valet this year over last.

According to Charles Franz, the UA’s alternative transportation program coordinator, they have parked 2,165 bikes between the start of school and Oct. 11. During the same period last year they parked 442 bikes. The difference represents a 390 percent increase.

Franz attributes the rise to the promotion the department has done during freshman orientation and the fact that it’s been there for a year for people to check out and get information about.

Franz said the students leading campus tours take the students and parents by the valet to tell them how it works.

UA freshman Mario Aubert-Vasquez said he discovered the bike valet when riding by one day. Now he uses it every time he goes to tutoring in a nearby building. He said it’s an easy process and the service is friendly.

Freshman Laura Kurtzberg hands off her bike to bike valet employees.

Freshman Laura Kurtzberg also discovered the valet while riding though campus. Now she uses it almost every other day.

“I use it all the time when I come to the union because it is close and I don’t have to worry about locking up my bike, it getting stolen or it being in the sun,” she said. “I think it is really useful and I am glad that it is free.”

The valet wasn’t always intended to be free. The original plan was to charge 50 cents per use, but after a slow start the fee was continually pushed back until it was eliminated all together.

Franz said he hasn’t heard anyone suggest that they start charging for the service despite the approximately $15,000 it costs to run the program.

He said the program offers a lot of benefits including providing students with jobs, increasing the school’s sustainability, helping prevent bike thefts and making it easier for people to ride their bikes to campus.

8 comments
James
James

If they shut down UAPD there would be lots of money for bike projects.

Joshua Choi
Joshua Choi

I am a student at the UA. I won’t claim to speak for every student: just a lot of them. I want the bike valet to succeed. I do. But… The bike valet as it stands today is *somewhat* useful, but is *not* worth $15,000 a year. The free bike repair stand that appears every Tuesday, Wednesday (?) and Thursday is a *much* more useful investment. I use that stand to fix my bike and pump my tires all the time. Not the bike valet, though. There are two big reasons why the bike valet is not as useful as it could be (for me, at least). One of the reasons is easily fixable. The first reason is the fixable one. There is no curb ramp to get from the street to the bike valet! The nearest wheelchair ramp is a couple dozen feet away, on the not-as-much-used west side (in the opposite direction from the much more used Highland Avenue bike route), and this ramp requires riding (or walking) through a gauntlet of pedestrians walking on that big sidewalk corner near the Nugent Building. There should either be a ramp built into the portion of the curb right by the bike valet’s entrance: either by replacing the concrete curb permanently (maybe too expensive) or using a wooden/cement ramp (a better idea). That would *instantly* make the bike valet more attractive to me, and probably to a ton of other students too. The second reason is less fixable. The bike valet is not in a very good location (for me), because it’s not near enough to what is probably the biggest reason that I (and perhaps most students) go to the Union: the restaurants near the eastern end of the building. I can see why the UA chose to put the bike valet at its current location by the Nugent Building: there are trees that provide good shade. But nonetheless, this puts it at an inconvenient location for getting to the restaurants, the most important thing (for me), and . Better locations would have been: - On the Mall itself (but then the grass would probably be harmed, and pedestrians would have to walk around) - Near the Administration Building, near that extremely popular north-south avenue toward Second Street (but that’s in a pedestrian-only area) - Near the Koffler Building (but that doesn’t have trees—but this isn’t a very good objection) The current location by Nugent is nice because of the trees, but is still inconvenient for the biggest reason I go to the Union: the restaurants. (My other reason for biking to the Union—going to the bookstore—is less common by an order of magnitude.) And so, today I park my bike by Koffler much more often than I use the valet. If I have enough time to use the valet, I have to jump my bike over the curb (no ramp) or ride around to the wheelchair ramp on the west corner (and then navigate through the dozen pedestrians walking in my way), check my bike in, and then walk at least twice as far a distance to the restaurants than I would have walked if I had parked by Koffler. I want the bike valet to succeed. I do. If the UA stopped providing the bike valet, it would be sad—I use it too if I’m not in a hurry…but it wouldn’t be too big of a deal. Thank goodness it’s free, though.

Mlemen
Mlemen

I think this is money well spent,  it's "cheap" to do and I bet the funding for this comes from a budget totally separate from where/how UA teachers are paid.  My guess is a grant funded this. Anyway.  The bike valet provides peace of mind, etc., etc., which hopefully inspires more students to ride to campus, etc., etc.  That it's a service provided for "free" is better incentive for folks to ride to campus and not have to worry about theft.

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

I'm imagining an outdoor bike shop and bistro along with the valet bike parking area. It would probably turn into quite the gathering place -- and pay its way.

Scott Lunt
Scott Lunt

Good point Martha. They should probably start planning ways to charge and offset the costs in order to keep this. Perhaps they could sell passes as well as per-use fees. Advertising could also help subsidize. In my opinion, a bike valet is a really important feature to encourage bike commuting and I would like to see it in other areas (since I'm not a UA student) such as downtown, 4th Ave, major shopping areas.

Martha Retallick
Martha Retallick

If this is thing is costing the UA $15k a year to run, expect to see it on the chopping block before too long. That's $15k that could be put into teaching students. Or something like that. OTOH, this could be a good opportunity for a local bike shop. A secure corral with a tuneup and repair place right there. Point of history: There used to be a little bike shop in the basement of the Bear Down Gym. It was run by a (now defunct) local shop that had a storefront on Campbell where the Asian Trade rug store is now.

straw
straw

Racer's Edge unless there was another shop in the Asian Trade spot earlier.