HUNTINGTON - The Marshall University Sustainability Department isn't just going green. They are going green and white.
And they have a fleet of 30 new white bikes to prove it.
At 1:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, the MU Sustainability Department launches Rolling Thunder, a new bike share program that will feature 30 bikes based on campus at Drinko Library, Harless Dining Hall, and Marshall Recreation Center. A fourth site, at Pullman Square, will also be forthcoming.
Rolling Thunder launches with a free picnic from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Marshall University Memorial Student Center fountain area. After the picnic, there will be an inaugural ride of the Rolling Thunder fleet that includes 30 GPS-enabled 3-speed gear pedal bikes with Marshall University branding.
The public is invited to come out and bring their bikes and celebrate the new bike share launch.
Amy Parsons-White, MU Sustainability coordinator, is stoked to be bringing the bike share program that will allow Marshall students and staff to access bikes for free for the first two hours per day and $5 per hour after the first two hours.
Marshall students and staff can download the app or set up an account (http://gotchabike.com/marshall) so that they can use the solar-powered pack on the back of the bike to log in with their PIN number, unlock the lock, and put it in a holster and have two hours of free ride time.
"You get two free hours of ride time and one hour of hold time - so you can run into a store and put the time on hold and come back and as along as it doesn't exceed two hours of ride time it's free," Parsons-White said. "After the two hours it is $5 an hour."
Parsons-White said the bikes are very theft resistant. To get the hefty U-Lock off you have to have an account, and if you go out of range you are charged $25. The bikes also are programmed with GPS so they know where the bikes are.
"One of the criticisms we have heard from the public is that these will just be stolen but they lock down and they are GPS enabled and so we know who has them and where they are at all times," Parsons-White said.
She said that they feel really comfortable bringing this particular bike share online since the bike makers, Gotcha, out of Charleston, South Carolina, have put similar bike share programs at universities and cities around the country.
"They have been doing this for years and have bikes on campuses all over the country as well as in cities so we like that they have a lot of experience doing this in big cities and some of the country's largest campuses," Parsons-White said. "If they can make it work at Auburn it can work here."
Parsons-White said that Gotcha has already hired local bicycle mechanics to make rounds to ensure the bikes are in good repair, to make sure the solar panels are charging, so that they are always road-ready.
Sean Flood, CEO and founder of Gotcha, said the company, which has fleets in more than 30 cities and campuses across the United States, is excited to come to Marshall.
"We're excited to provide a micro-transit solution for our collegiate partner, Marshall University," Flood said in a release. "Our model allows schools to provide affordable, healthy shared mobility options that connect the campus with the larger community in a safe, efficient, and sustainable way."
Parsons-White said Marshall's previous bike share program, Eco-Cycle, on campus since 2014, was under-utilized as the bikes were indoors at the Rec Center.
"Students had to go into the Rec Center and show their ID and check it out and then bring it back, so it wasn't used much because any time people have to taken an extra step they often won't," Parsons-White said. "I think because the bikes were housed indoors a lot of people didn't know about it. That is why we went this route. The bikes are outside and are very visible and people will take advantage of it more when they can just walk up and check it out and go."
Parsons-White said the Eco-Cycle bicycles are also being put to good use. They have donated eight of the bikes to the INTO program, and have gotten a couple of trailers so that the Sustainability Department can go completely bike-powered on campus.
Currently, a golf cart is used to pick up compost and recycling around campus. Parsons-White said she has also been in talks with TTA and Pullman Square about sponsoring a hub that would place at least a couple of bikes at the Buffalo sculpture at Pullman, directly across from the Marshall Visual Arts Center.
"We're really excited to launch Rolling Thunder and we would love to see the community come out at 1:30 p.m. Friday for the community bike ride around campus and to encourage everyone to get active," Parsons-White said. "The more we can get students active and involved, this will offer them a great bridge into the city. A lot of them if they don't have cars, they just stay on campus. I am excited to get this started because it is easy to use and simple and hopefully just gets students out to the community. We want to see them in downtown Huntington and out riding and enjoying our city. "