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IU's new bike lending program is gearing up for a second semester

By Milana Katic

Aug. 21, 2014

When Helen Gapsis first came to IU, she was intrigued with the idea of tooling around campus on a bicycle, but she wasn’t convinced it was the best mode of transportation for her.

After dragging out her childhood bicycle, her opinion quickly changed.

“Up until this year, I actually thought I hated having a bike on campus,” she said. “In the past fall semester though, I brought my old bike with me to campus and really loved how accessible it made campus and the city of Bloomington. It was so much faster than walking, and I could go so much farther.”

With a newfound love of cycling, Gapsis was thrilled when she heard about Crimson Cruisers, a bike-lending program launched last summer that allows faculty, students and staff to borrow a bicycle, for free, for one semester.

Crimson Cruisers cyclist

Helen Gapsis and her Crimson Cruisers bicycle. | Photo By CHASITY MOTTINGER

Signing up for the program was easy, Gapsis said, and she was impressed with the resources it provided including a new helmet, locks, lights, a bell and a bike safety session. Gapsis also took advantage of a tune-up halfway through the summer after an encounter with a curb. It was also a definite upgrade from a bike she’d had since middle school.

In addition to riding to class every day, Gapsis, who just graduated from IU Bloomington with a bachelor's degree in biology, used her Crimson Cruiser to pedal to and from her job at the Office of Mentoring Services and Leadership Development, logging more than 250 miles over the summer.

“I used my bike almost every single day to either bike to class, to work, to the grocery store, to my internship site, to meet friends, to go to the park or just to explore,” she said.

More than 50 people signed up for the summer pilot program, and 10 ambassadors were chosen.

Henri Venable, program organizer and a graduate student in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs and intern with the IU Office of Sustainability, said feedback from summer participants has been positive.

“We've put our hearts, our blood and our sweat into this program, and it's great to see people understand, appreciate and support what we're trying to do,” Venable said.

As organizers move forward with a new semester of riders, volunteers are working on making the bikes road-ready. Based on participant feedback, organizers are also making tweaks to the program including clarifying participants' responsibility for care of a bike.

“There are some kinks in the program that we need to work through, but the feedback from ambassadors has been very positive and helpful,” Venable said. “We look forward to new users and additional feedback.”

Although her time in Bloomington is over, Gapsis hopes Crimson Cruisers continues to grow and becomes an opportunity for more students and staff to ditch their cars and jump on a bicycle instead.

“I think it really opens the doors to get people interested in biking without having to invest a couple hundred dollars in a bike first,” she said. “Biking is a great form of exercise, and I think (the program) could realistically replace a lot of car and bus usage as a form of transportation.”

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