Update: Coast Bike Share has stated that the bikes are for use in downtown St. Petersburg, and that they are not officially partnered with USF. Student interest may lead to further collaboration, more stations and a larger student discount.
USF St. Petersburg is a continuously expanding campus, located in the heart of a city on the rise. To answer the ever-growing concerns for space and transportation, the university has partnered with Coast Bike Share, a program offering high-tech bicycles as a means of commuting throughout downtown St. Pete.
The current brigade of bikes is stationed at the corner of 2nd Street and 6th Avenue, outside of the Student Life Center, with plans for two more in the near future. The program offers a variety of plans, ranging from a pay-as-you-go service to an annual fee with 60 minutes of daily ride time, but students are offered a discounted plan: for only $59 yearly, registered members of USF receive an hour of daily ride time.
Coast Bike Share operates by using an electronic lock system and free app in tandem. A member of the program may reserve a bike through either the integrated keypad on the bicycle itself or through the “Social Bicycles” phone app. From there, a unique pin disables the U-lock, and the bike can be taken anywhere around St. Pete.
Each bicycle is an 8-speed cruiser, equipped with an adjustable seat, a no-grease chainless drive as well as a headlight and hand bell. They also come with a GPS-enabled computer, allowing directions to be provided through the companion app.
For storage, a front basket and secure holster above the rear wheel are provided,which is locked by the same keypad system used to holster the bike. All on board electronics are powered by solar panels alongside the energy produced by the rider.
The program came as an obvious answer to the campus’ growing commuter needs while adhering to St. Pete’s themes of sustainability. While the maintenance of the program costs the city roughly $1600 per bike, the long-term investment for both the university and the city is far more valuable.
“This is a way to help get people to jobs, to get people to buses,” said Councilwoman Darden Rice, publicly addressing Coast Bike Share’s most recent expansions.
“Bike sharing is something strongly supported by the community… this is a transportation choice that people want.”
More than just a transportation option, the program further enforces the local push for eco-friendly alternatives. St. Pete is a city of sustainable initiatives, and is the first city in Florida to be certified as a “Green City” by the Florida Green Building Council, among other recognitions. USFSP has also declared in the Climate Action Plan that the university will be carbon neutral by 2050.
The neutrality goal was originally set at 2035 but had to be adjusted once emissions from commuters were calculated in. Coast Bike Share was instituted as a step toward correcting this, offering students an efficient means of travel while reducing their carbon footprint.
“USF and St. Pete are at the forefront of their respective green movements, so we’re in a position to reduce the amount of cars,” said Alana Todd, USFSP’s Secretary of Sustainable Initiatives.
Bike sharing is also the first collaboration of many between St. Pete and USF in making the downtown area more accessible and bike-friendly.
“[Coast Bike Share] is about integrating efforts between the city and our university,” said Todd. “I’m happy to see St. Pete is working towards a safe, green downtown.”