Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

University of Idaho puts new Spin on campus

The University of Idaho is starting a dockless bike share program for the fall semester using Spin bicycles. Students can rent the bicycles using a smartphone app. (Courtesy)
By Garrett Cabeza Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Starting next month, University of Idaho students, faculty and staff will be able to cruise through campus without using their own car or bicycle.

Rebecca Couch, UI director of parking and transportation services, said the university plans to launch a Spin dockless bicycle share program the week of Aug. 13 before students return to Moscow. Couch said the program will allow riders to unlock one of 100 UI bicycles using Spin’s mobile application, ride it to the bicyclist’s desired destination and drop it off on any paved campus surface that does not block vehicle or foot traffic.

Anyone with a UI email address can pay $0.50 for a 30-minute ride, Couch said. She said the time starts as soon as a rider unlocks the bike and ends when the rider hits the “End Ride” button, which locks the bike. Couch said a solar panel in the bike’s basket charges every day and powers the bike lock battery and GPS.

“U of I is super excited to bring a new alternative transportation option to campus,” Couch said.

She said the university plans to provide another mode of transportation this spring by implementing electric scooters.

Couch said there has been an increase in the number of students driving cars to campus. In fact, she said last fall, the university sold more permits in the first week of classes than it ever has during its first week.

“Enrollment’s not increasing substantially but we’re seeing more parking permits being sold, so it’s telling us more students are just choosing to bring a car to campus,” Couch said.

Couch said the university made parking adjustments to accommodate the supply and demand changes but she said it also convinced officials to make a more permanent change. She said they determined the university cannot continue to install more parking spaces and Moscow provides a bike-friendly environment.

Couch said the university did not choose a dock bike share system, or a system that requires riders to return bikes to a specific bike parking location, because it is expensive and not as convenient for users. She said the dockless model did not cost the UI.

While anyone can ride the bikes almost anywhere, Couch said the bikes eventually need to be returned and locked on campus.

She said there will be some areas with “geo-fencing,” or spots where riders will not be able to ride or park the bike, such as the UI Arboretum. If a rider tries to end his or her ride in a geo-fenced area, the Spin app will notify the person, Couch said.

She said each bicycle’s GPS will track the location of all Spin bikes and the team will handle any issues that arise with riders not following the rules.

Couch said bikes should be parked outside UI buildings and she encourages riders to park adjacent to existing bike racks. She said riders can locate the nearest bikes on the app.

While bikes are expected to be readily available on the UI campus, Couch said the goal is to implement the dockless program throughout Moscow.

“No one wants to start the system just on campus,” she said. “We want it to be community-wide from day one.”

Couch said the UI and city have been meeting for about the last two years to discuss bike share options.

Moscow Public Works Director Les MacDonald introduced the dockless system concept to the Moscow Public Works/Finance Committee last week and he said he will update the committee again Monday. MacDonald said he will possibly provide the committee with a draft memorandum of understanding between the city and Spin at Monday’s meeting. He said the city would implement the same dockless program as the university.

Moscow City Councilor Brandy Sullivan, who sits on the PWFC, said she and the other two councilors on the committee – Kathryn Bonzon and Jim Boland – support a bike share program in Moscow.

“That convenience can encourage more people to use the bikes for short and long trips,” Sullivan said.

She said expanding the proposed UI boundaries to include the entire city would make the program more accessible for students and residents.