If you live in the City of Montevallo, you may have pulled out of your driveway this morning and noticed your neighbor pausing to buckle the strap of a bicycle helmet, rather than a seat belt. You may also notice far fewer automobiles on area roads these days and, a far greater amount of people riding bicycles as they make their way around town. If you’re wondering what inspired such a shift in mode of transportation, you’ll need to look no further than ValloCycle, Montevallo’s new city-wide bike share program.
Stemming from a belief that everyone in the community deserves the freedom and benefits of personal mobility, ValloCycle aims to provide area residents-including University of Montevallo students-with dependable and low-cost transportation. Of course, the fact that it serves as alternative means of transportation-one that helps reduce carbon emissions and promotes a healthier lifestyle-also makes this program highly appealing. As the first community-wide bike sharing program of it’s kind to emerge anywhere in the state of Alabama, ValloCycle is a true representation of successful community collaboration.
The bike sharing program came to life through the dedicated efforts of an all volunteer committee consisting of UM students, faculty, and staff, as well as area businesses and organizations. “The goal is to drive all the members of our community to work together towards the best possible solutions for our area,” explains Aaron Traywick, UM student and coordinator of ValloCycle. Traywick says that since it’s launch on on October 13th, the bike program continues to receive tremendous community support. In fact, he believes the mere presence of ValloCycle in Montevallo has inspired an increasing amount of area residents to begin riding their own bikes around town. Participation in the Montevallo’s bike sharing program does require proof of Shelby County residency, as well as an annual fee. Yet, designed to be accessible to anyone who wants to participate, ValloCycle membership is very affordable, and can be obtained through one of two options. Residents can either choose to pay an annual fee of $25 per individual adult ($10 per child, ages 17 and under), or donate 25 hours of their time toward community service. “We want to encourage bicycling as a healthy, environmentally-conscious, and affordable means of transportation,” says Traywick, who stresses that ValloCycle is not interested in earning a profit.
During the development stages, coordinators of the program considered a wide range of issues, and turned to several local organizations for key insight. In particular, the Shelby Emergency Assistance organization helped ValloCycle establish methods to enhance the overall efficiency of the bikes-especially for those individuals who might be relying on the bicycles as their primary method of transportation. “We concluded that baskets for carrying groceries, books, and other luggage, would be a beneficial addition to the program,” says Traywick. It was easy for the committee to see the value of adding the bicycle baskets, yet, they also knew it presented them with a new expense challenge. “We asked local businesses around Montevallo to sponsor our bikes for $30 a piece,” explains Traywick. “This got us a basket, additional money to help pay for chains and locks, and got the sponsoring businesses a specially-designed sign permanently affixed to that bicycle.”
To add some extra uniqueness (not to mention fun) to this already one of a kind program, ValloCycle has named every one of it’s bikes-many of them with the help of children from the local Boys and Girls Club. In terms of actual bike donations, and funding for associated costs, Traywick explains that they’ve received an incredible amount of financial support from various community business and organizations, including the Montevallo Police Department, Bob’s Bikes, and Regions Bank. “The partnership that our program has formed between the City and University of Montevallo is one-of-a-kind,” says Traywick. For routine maintenance and potential repairs, ValloCycle relies on the support of the Montevallo Public Works Department, as well as UM students enrolled in the University’s Kinesiology class who have knowledge about bike repair and maintenance.
Traywick says the greatest challenge in getting ValloCycle up and running, revolved more around the logistical aspect of working in unfamiliar territory. “The hardest part came when we realized that we were going to have to link three separate bike check-out locations, (UM’s Carmichael Library, the city’s Parnell Library, and the Montevallo police Department), none of which shared even remotely the same database for checking items in and out.” Fortunately, one of the committee members, Adam Kamerer of Carmichael Library, was in a position to help ValloCycle through this challenge. He designed a specific Web site that would link all the stations through one accessible database. “He also streamlined all check-in/out processes in a manner that made the rental and sign-up process so simple that only meager training was required for the staff of each location,” says Traywick.
In an effort to prioritize bike safety, the committee made a unanimous decision to require anyone checking out a bike to also check out one of ValloCycle’s helmets, as well as a bike lock-unless a rider presents their own at the time of check out, says Traywick. A valid ID must also be presented when checking out a bike. The bike sharing program also enforces strict borrowing rules. If a “renter” fails to return one of the bicycles within the established borrowing time, he will be charged a daily late fee of anywhere from $3-$10, depending on any record of previous offenses. Failure to return a bike after ten days will result in a $75 lost bike fee.
In the short time ValloCycle has been operating, Traywick sees that it is already making a significant impact at UM, as well as in the Montevallo community. “The best thing, is that our community knows our program started from scratch, and is maintained by an all-volunteer committee comprised of representatives from both sides of Montevallo, the campus and community,” he says. “This has inspired other people to pour their energy into projects which they also feel passionately about, and this keeps Montevallo really moving!” For more information about ValloCycle, or to learn how to apply for membership, visit http://vallocycle.com/.
Written By Kate Agliata