Auburn starting unique bicycle sharing program

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Auburn University will start a bicycle sharing program this fall with "smart bikes" that will allow students to get to class easier and will be accessible 24 hours a day free of charge.

"We are looking at having a possible 150 bikes on campus this fall," Manager of Parking Services Don Andrae said. "The purpose of the bikes is to be used on and off campus as a healthy and convenient mode of transportation. Plus, by providing the bikes at Tiger Transit stops along the route, it may eliminate the time students have to spend waiting to reach their destination."

Auburn's Parking Services is partnering with Gotcha Group – Green Operating Transit Carrying Humans Around – on the bike sharing program with the Gotcha bikes. The bicycles can be used anywhere as long as they are returned to their original bike corral within 24 hours. Bike corrals will be placed in popular places around campus, such as transit stops, resident halls and the Student Center.

"I believe Auburn will be the first university in Alabama to have the Gotcha bike share program," CEO of Gotcha Group Sean Flood said.

In order to use the "smart bikes," students must download a mobile app, which lets them use their mobile phones to find available bikes nearby. All bikes are equipped with a GPS tracking device that charges as the bikes are being peddled. Students can also lock and unlock the bike with a push of a button from the phone. Parking Services uses the app to view where the bikes are and how often they are being used.

The bikes offer durability features such as a rustproof frame, a belt drive, waterproof seats and leak-resistant tires. The bikes also include baskets for students' books or book bags.

"The difference between this bike sharing program and others is you must return the bike from where you got it from in 24 hours," Andrae said. "When you sign up and download the app, it asks for credit card information. If you don't return the bike in 24 hours, $4 a day will be charged to your account."

Gotcha Group made its first appearance on campus four years ago with Gotcha Ride, an electric vehicle that transports students around campus and downtown. Gotcha Ride is still in operation today on campus.

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