It was February 9, 2016 and the area in front of Benson University Center was filled with close to 100 bikes. In a matter of hours, all bikes had been reserved for semester-long use at no cost to students, faculty and staff.
Implementing a free bike-sharing program on a college campus was no easy feat. But behind every successful initiative is an inspired change agent who made it happen—conducted surveys, did the research, identified the means, and converted inspiration to action. Alyshah Aziz, a Politics and International Affairs major from the class of 2016, was that person for Wake Forest University.
It began with CHARGE—WFU’s ten-week leadership development program for first and second-year students. In 2013, Aziz and her group members identified a problem with current modes of transportation in the campus community. Single occupancy vehicles impact roadways, air pollution, health and the greater environment. In an effort to encourage more sustainable transportation modes, they proposed a bike-sharing program for students, faculty and staff. However, when they presented this idea to the WFU Office of Sustainability, they discovered it wasn’t the first time such a program had been proposed. The problem had been implementing the idea. Was there sufficient demand for this program? How would it be funded? Who would manage it?
The ten-week CHARGE program came and went, but Aziz’ passion remained ignited. She applied for a unique internship with the Office of Sustainability to continue the investigation and was accepted. Her initial work included a robust study of demand on campus, including evaluation of price sensitivity among potential user groups.
The tipping point that led to the initiation of the program was the discovery that more than a hundred bikes were abandoned on campus every summer. The organization that had been the recipient of the abandoned property in the past could not use any more bikes. With one solution to two problems in hand, Aziz engaged a variety of other campus offices and organizations to initiate a plan. She partnered with the WFU Cycling Team, Outdoor Pursuits, and University Police to collect and restore 65 usable bicycles that were abandoned on the WFU campus following the 2015 spring semester.
August 2015 marked the pilot program for Re-Cycle, named for the re-use of bicycles that were previously abandoned. To meet unmet demand from the first semester, the Office of Sustainability, WFU Student Activities Fund and the Office of Wellbeing provided financial support to purchase 45 new bikes for the spring semester program. As of February 2016, all bikes had been reserved and over 200 individuals had expressed interest in the program since its pilot.
All WFU students, faculty and staff are eligible to participate in the Re-Cycle bike-sharing program, and there is no cost to borrow a bike. Individuals may reserve a bike for semester-long or short-term use at Outdoor Pursuits. The wait-list for semester-long rentals continues to grow as the program gains popularity. Aside from enabling a free and more sustainable alternative to driving, Re-Cycle also supports the physical well-being of the campus community.
“I hope this program inspires students, faculty and staff to think differently about the way they get from one location to the next,” says Aziz, who will graduate this May. “It’s not easy to influence car culture, and the Re-Cycle bike-sharing program is an important milestone in doing just that.”
In reflecting on the successful launch of this initiative, Dedee DeLongpre Johnston, the campus Chief Sustainability Officer, offered “It’s difficult to estimate how many students come to us each year with ‘good ideas.’ It’s far easier to count those who bring their ideas to fruition. Alyshah’s commitment to execution and professionalism in everything she does is inspiring.”