Auburn just launched a new bike sharing program.
Working with the Gotcha Group – Green Operating Transit Carrying Humans Around – Auburn is helping students living on or off campus become more active and less reliant on traditional forms of transportation.
Although the Gotcha Group typically partners with local businesses and restaurants to set up electricity-based taxi services, they are working directly with Parking Services to make bikes available to students at strategically placed hubs across campus. According to Parking Services Manager Don Andrea, Auburn will host 75 bikes this spring with the option to expand the fleet in upcoming years.
The Gotcha Group website states:
"Gotcha Bike is the nation's most advanced and sustainable bike sharing program thanks to the nation's first Smart Bike, the Gotcha Bike. Unlike traditional bike sharing programs, our bikes don't need a heavy and expensive kiosk to operate. Our system can operate with any standard bike rack and is easily scalable!"
Not only can the bikes be parked at any bike rack, they can be locked and unlocked via the Sobi app for smartphones. Additionally, students can use the app to locate available bikes nearby. The bikes contain an internal GPS, powered by pedaling, and an onboard solar panel.
Although the program is designed to be free, to access the app students must enter credit card information. If a bike is not returned to a bike corral within two hours of being picked up, a user is charged $5 for each additional hour, up to a total of $25. This breaks from the original model of a 24-hour free rental period to ensure Auburn students will truly use the program for sharing, as opposed to simply keeping the bikes for long periods of time.
The bikes are specially designed to maximize durability. Gotcha Group CEO Sean Flood affirms:
"These are going to be outside year-round, so we wanted to make sure they won’t rust. They’ve got puncture-resistant tires, so the hassle of your tires running flat, you won’t have any issue of that. The seat is Kevlar, so you won’t have a soaking wet seat when you walk out. And what we think is really neat is, we’ve removed the chain, so this is a belt drive. There’s no metal chain; it’s just a rubber belt similar to a belt drive that operates in your car. No grease, nothing like that. And all of the lock technology is on the back."
For any performance issues that may arise, the program is partnering with Auburn's popular bike shop Southern Trails. In addition to on-demand maintenance, the bikes will have a monthly maintenance examination.
Interested students should download the Sobi app.
Be well, Auburn.
Photography: Jack P.