Sustainable Student Ventures Proposal
Jared Benedict
Last updated: December 10, 2001 2:12 AM

Of the over 3000 colleges and universities, and thousands of urban communities in the United States, few have means of quick inter-community transportation. Often destinations are perceived to be too far to conveniently walk. Some community members make the choice to drive an automobile, and in some cases, they avoid the trip all together. When community members use cars for travel between buildings, they pollute the air, use nonrenewable natural resources, avoid healthy exercise, and diminish the sense of community by isolating themselves in their car.

We are developing a Community Bike and Scooter program that addresses these issues, while avoiding the pitfalls of traditional community bike programs which have historically hampered their success.


We intend to provide a viable, sustainable, and healthy method of inter-community transportation. We will use Hampshire College as a model implementation, which can then be implemented at other colleges and communities.

Our Solution

Using proven technologies, we are designing a community scooter and bike program which uses a computerized vehicle check-out model in order to provide individual accountability. This is the primary pitfall of other attempts to implement community bike programs.

Our design has many benefits which we believe will strengthen its success:

  • Individual accountability means theft and vehicle damage is diminished.
  • By implementing racks in specific areas around a community, users know where to find a scooter or bicycle. Users can depend on the system as a viable transportation alternative.
  • Using our specialized bicycles or scooters, in conjunction with locking racks, vehicle maintenance time and costs will be deducted.
  • All community members have equal and free access to the bicycle or scooter. This reduces the need for community members to buy their own bicycles.

We intend to first design a system which can be easily implemented at any type of community such as a college campus or urban setting. We hope to use a design which can easily be modified to authenticate users with whatever is already common in each community. For example, colleges typically already use a magnetic strip ID system. Other communities may wish to use smart cards, or existing public transit cards.

  • Over 3000 University and Colleges in the United States alone.
  • Thousands of communities and business campuses worldwide.


Community bike programs have been around for over 40 years. Most of the programs use a anarchic system where old bicycles are donated, fixed up, and released into the community. This type of program is plagued with aces which commonly leads to a failed program. Hampshire College has had an anarchic community bike program since 1999.

Slightly more advanced programs have been developed where bicycles are locked to racks around the community. Users must have a combination or insert a coin deposit to unlock a bicycle. While this type of program addresses a few of the common issues, it doesn't address individual accountability.

More recently a couple entities have tried to address the primary issue of accountability by using a computerized check-out system. Similar to our mission they intend the bike program to be a viable alternative means of transportation. There are a few differences which distinguish us from these entities.

Adshel Smart Bike Program
Adshel, an international advertising agency, works with city municipalities to install various types of street furniture such as bus shelters. The integral part of their agreement is that they get to use the furniture to generate ad revenue. They have recently developed a computerized bike program very similar to our project. They however will only implement the system under the agreement that they can cover the bicycles and racks with advertising. They do not offer the equipment for purchase separately. In some communities, this is very unappealing.

Adshel, and every community bike program that we are aware of, uses bicycles. While bicycles make sense in many communities, we believe scooters, or a combination of scooters and bicycles will be a better choice in certain instances. Scooters use a much simpler design which allows for dramatic decrease in manufacturing and maintenance costs. The scooters also are easier and safer to use, while providing a better fit to a wider range of users.

The members working on the project have many years of experience working with issues involved in the design, implementation, and adoption of sustainable projects within a community.

Adam Shapiro
Founder Hampshire Yellow Bike program.
Three years experience running the program.
In touch with issues around community transportation
Studying sustainability

Jared Benedict
Strong background in implementing appropriate technology in communities
Studying sustainability, information technology, and design.
Implemented what is already one of the most comprehensive web sites on the web about community bike programs.

John Fabel
Professor and expert on issues of Sustainability
Leader of Hampshire Sustainable Campus Plan
Strong background in design and entrepreneurship

While we believe our system design addresses the major issues which hamper the success of such projects, there issues which we are aware of. We intend to address these issues while in the design phase. We hope to resolve the other issues by implementing the program and then revising relevant pieces.

  • Bicycles and scooters are likely not usable or safe in snowy conditions.
  • Computer check-out programs are expensive. However, equipment should theoretically last longer.
  • The community must be involved and feel ownership for such a project to succeed. In an anarchic system, the sense of ownership is greater when users donate their own bicycles or volunteer their time to fix bicycles. Because of the complexity of a computerized check-out system, certain aspects will require specialized knowledge which may limit community involvement. While community involvement should remain a top priority, a computerized check-out system is designed to be a true transportation alternative. Anarchic systems on the other hand rarely if ever get to that stage. Finding a yellow bike on Hampshire campus when one needs it is a rarity and convenience, not something people expect or depend on.
  • Although it is not predicted to be a major issue at Hampshire, some communities may have traffic patterns which require program maintainers to transport vehicles from racks at popular destination, to popular departure areas. The status of racks can be remotely monitored and data can be archived over time to predict when certain racks may need attention.
  • Liability

Project Phases
Phase One - Research, Product design, and prototyping
The initial phase of our project is to do necessary research to determine the specific elements that insure a successful community bike program. We will also be identifying the best technologies to use for the implementation. We then intend to build a working prototype. This phase will take place from August 2001 through May 2002. During this phase we will continue to support the existing Hampshire Yellow Bike Program by using a fraction of our funds to raise the number of bicycles in our fleet. We may be able to use this equipment in the next phase of our program.

Phase Two - Fund Raising & Program Implementation at Hampshire
Once a working prototype is developed, we hope to implement the program at Hampshire College. Doing so will require fund raising through grant funding. During this phase we will also work closely with the college and the sustainable campus plan.

During this phase we hope to not only provide the Hampshire community with a viable short range transportation alternative, but to fine tune the system so it can easily be implemented in other communities.

We are seeking 4500 dollars in funds for the design and construction of a system prototype. This will include the construction of a simplified locking rack, a modified off-the-shelf scooter and bicycle, and centralized authentication server. To avoid as many pitfalls as possible, we will also be doing research through surveys and visiting other advanced community bike programs.

Thus far we have raised 2500 dollars. We are looking to the Sustainable Student Ventures for the remaining 2000 dollars to implement phase one of the project.

Bicycle rack - $1800

  • locking mechanism
    • Electric strikes
  • identification and location confirmation equipment
    • Touch memory chips
    • Touch memory readers
    • Touch memory interface equipment
  • computer Node equipment
    • low-end computer
    • card reader
    • display
  • controller equipment to interface
  • materials

Vehicle construction scooter/bicycle - $800

  • Off the shelf equipment
  • materials

Computer Equipment for authentication - $600

  • Centralized server
  • Software

Miscellaneous - $500

  • Research supplies
  • Specialized construction tools
  • Travel
  • CAD software

Existing Program Support - $800