A six-year effort came to fruition on Monday, Oct. 12 when the new University of Toledo bike share program called Rocket Wheels was unveiled in a ceremony at Rocket Hall.
The bike share program is a project that the UT Student Government has been working towards since 2010. The idea was the brainchild of then-SG President Matt Rubin, who gained inspiration from programs at the Ohio State University and cities across the country. UT’s Complete Streets Committee began to research and help develop the bike share program.
“When I was a student leader on campus, the number one issue, and I’m sure it’s the issue now, was parking,” Rubin said. “Everybody was looking for a solution to make parking more convenient and it seemed to be the biggest hassle that students face in their lives.”
Rubin said he and SG began to search for a proactive and creative approach that would help to get people on board.
They started with bike lockers, bicycle lanes, air compressors for bike tires, and eventually started to form the bike share program.
“It was the best way that we could combat parking,” Rubin said. “It was something that was good for the environment; it was something that promoted public health.”
After years of analysis and working out the logistics of the plan with funding from UT’s provost office, Rocket Wheels was finally created.
“It’s something that you may not see the payoff right away,” Rubin said, “but the effort and the passion that the students put into these causes really does matter and does make a difference.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was hosted by SG president Cody Spoon and vice president Ian Michalak. Michalak gave the opening address and talked about his excitement for the program.
“The fact that it’s been able to get rolled out like this is really a special moment for Student Government and the University of Toledo,” Michalak said. “It’s going to be a recreational tool for students who can use the great bike path we have here on campus.”
Michalak thanked the former SG leaders who helped to get the project to this point.
“Since the beginning, everyone has done a little bit of work on it, from purchasing all the resources, making sure it’s what the students want, and Cody and I were the finishers on it to help test it out and pick locations,” Michalak said.
“We really enjoyed being able to work through this process and bring this to campus.”
Spoon spoke at the unveiling about the importance of patience on this project.
“Patience has paid off, maybe more today than it has any other day, because we’ve achieved an initiative we’ve worked [on] for six years,” Spoon said. “That was back when I was still in high school. People who’ve already graduated started on this before I even came to Toledo.”
Spoon mentioned that one of the ways the program was able to be more cost effective was through the use of “upcycled” vending machines that dispense keys.
“It’s awesome that we had so many people on board, helping, to achieve what we’re all here for, helping the students to make the university a greater place to be on a daily basis,” Spoon said.
John Barrett, interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, also spoke at the ceremony. He expressed his continued interest in making this an affordable program for the university.
“It’s just great to have a program that we can expand to whatever the demand is and we can do in a way that is responsible for the institution and taxpayers of Ohio, but at the same time meets the student, faculty and staff’s desire for more easy access around our beautiful campus,” Barrett said.
Barrett said that the final cost for the program was between $15,000 and $25,000. Other universities advised him that a fleet of 50 bicycles would be enough for the campus, but Barrett believes adding more bicycles at future date, if needed, would be easy to do.
Jennifer Petersen, a first-year business major, lives in the Honors Academic Village in the northwest corner of campus. She doesn’t have a bicycle on campus and said Rocket Wheels is a great idea.
“I would use the bicycle program,” Petersen said. “I think I’d use it a lot more during warm weather.”
Rubin said he is glad the program is finally available for student use.
“I hope that they use them [the bicycles] and help relieve the congestion of student parking,” Rubin said,” and help to make students healthier and happy.”
In order to check out one of the program’s bikes, a potential bike user must be a current student of UT in good standing with the university, 18 years old and must register for the program. Rocket Wheels is free to all UT students.
For more information about where to sign up or where to check out a bike, visit the Rocket Wheels tab on the University of Toledo website.