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UF Cycles Its Way Towards Environmental Sustainability

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"One of the 100 Gator Gears rental bikes remains locked outside of Norman Hall while classes are in session. The bicycle was locked to a bike rack with the U-lock provided by Gator Gears, which is included in the rental fee."
One of the 100 Gator Gears rental bikes remains locked outside of Norman Hall while classes are in session. The bicycle was locked to a bike rack with the U-lock provided by Gator Gears, which is included in the rental fee. Victoria Verdeja/WUFT News

Measurably reducing a university’s carbon footprint can be a daunting task, especially with almost 50,000 students on campus every day.

The University of Florida, however, will try to reduce that footprint by reducing students’ reliance on buses and automobiles: It is offering them a chance to rent bikes through Gator Gears. Launched this fall by the UF Office of Sustainability, Gator Gears is a student bike rental program that allows students to lease a quality bicycle for either one semester, the fall and spring semesters, or the entire school year.

Included in the rental fee are a bike helmet, a combination U-lock, and maintenance and repairs. Students also get to choose from three bicycle sizes to rent one that best suits them.

It seems to be catching on.

Before the fall semester began, all 100 bikes available for rent were reserved. Now there are more than 100 people on a waiting list, said Jacob Adams, office manager at the Office of Sustainability.

“We finally had the right people, the right resources and the right skill sets,” he said. “Our partnership with UF Transportation and Parking Services also helped.”

By providing students this opportunity, the Office of Sustainability hopes to reduce the amount of cars on and near campus.

Allison Vitt, the outreach and communications coordinator for the UF Office of Sustainability, said the program wants people to think of transportation in terms other than the single-occupancy, traditional vehicle.

Another problem UF faces is the amount of abandoned bikes on and around campus. Whether they’re broken or deemed useless by their owners, many bikes are left to rust away.

“My parents bought me a bike when I first started at UF and locked it in the bike rack next to my dorm,” said junior Valerie Katz. “That was the last time I saw it.”

Gator Gears hopes to address this issue by informing students about the necessity of getting a good-quality bicycle when purchasing one and proving their functionality, Vitt said.

“Gator Gears was first marketed to incoming UF students at Preview sessions,” she said.

"Renee Gomez, UF senior, mounts his Gator Gears rental bicycle on the bike rack outside of Library West. 'They were really helpful,' Gomez said of the service Gator Gears delivers. 'They provide maintenance when you need it, where ever you're at.' Victoria Verdeja / WUFT
“Renee Gomez, UF senior, mounts his Gator Gears rental bicycle on the bike rack outside of Library West. ‘They were really helpful,’ Gomez said of the service Gator Gears delivers. ‘They provide maintenance when ever and where ever you need it.’ Victoria Verdeja / WUFT

Renee Gomez, a senior biology major at UF, was able to rent a bicycle after only a few weeks on the waiting list.

“It’s so convenient,” Gomez said. “I use it everyday for class and to go to practice.”

Vitt said Gator Gears plans to increase the number of bicycles for rent in the future if demand continues to be high. That decision will be made early this upcoming spring semester.

“I really hope they’re able to offer more bikes for rental soon,” said UF freshman Megan Wetzel. “I can definitely see myself renting one.”

Sign-ups for bike rentals for the spring semester will be opening soon.

Information about sign ups and extensions of the program can be found in the newsletter offered to those who enter their emails on the Gator Gears website.

 

About Victoria Verdeja

Victoria is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org

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