By: Mary Margaret Robison ’21
Davidson is taking sustainability on campus to new heights this spring, bringing Mobikes to campus to aid student transportation while also staying green.
Mobike, started in China in 2015, is a stationless bike sharing system that has been sweeping through urban areas in recent years. Users are able to pick up bikes wherever they may stand, pay a small fee, and take the bike wherever they need to go. Mobikes are especially popular in Charlotte.
Mobike pricing tries to be accommodating for students. As promoted in an SGA email sent out on March 13th, individuals can enter a Mobike promo code to receive 20 free rides up until the start of May. Chris Amoroso ‘21 is a first-year involved with sustainability on campus, including the Mobike initiative. He said the school is trying to work out a deal with the company so that students could potentially get a flat rate per semester with the bikes rather than just the $1 ride fee. Nothing has been fully decided yet, Amoroso says.
Amoroso argued “[Mobike’s goals are to] create a more efficient, convenient, and sustainable way for students to travel around campus. Also…to keep up with the changing times and new transportation methods; lots of cities are already using stationless bikes, and campuses are beginning to use them.”
Despite already having Zipcars, a similar concept but with cars, Mobikes allow for a more environmentally friendly way for students to get around the Davidson area. Students would not have to contribute emissions by driving, but instead would be able to stay green and go where they need. Liam Stiefel ’20, a student employee at the Sustainability Office, commented “I anticipate Mobike being far more widely used than Zipcar, which I don’t believe has significantly changed transportation on campus.”
There are other forms of sustainable transportation on campus in addition to Zipcars and Mobikes. One such option are public buses run by the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS). According to Marisa Wilson ‘18, who was also involved in the Mobike project, the Davidson Sustainability Office started a program this semester entitled “‘Cats on CATS” that “seeks to improve student awareness of and comfort with local public transportation.”
Wilson explained that two CATS buses frequent Davidson. The 77 bus route runs a commuter route to Charlotte during the week, and the 97 is capable of taking students to destinations on Main Street as well as Cornelius and Huntersville.
‘Cats on CATS participants receive a complementary 10-ride bus pass and attend an information session during which they learn about local transportation resources. “We also ride the bus together to one of the destinations along the bus route,” said Wilson, in order to get students used to the system.
Wilson also gave insight on how the Mobike movement will juxtapose other transportation movements on campus. When asked about the current transportation problems on campus and how Mobikes would help, she responded: “Through Mobike, students will be able to get to grocery stores, restaurants, and around campus more easily, while ‘Cats on CATS helps students access the public bus to get to locations in Cornelius and Huntersville.”
Wilson also cautioned that “getting to Charlotte is still difficult, limiting the ability for students without cars to access the many internships, startups, and potential professional connections that exist in the city.” Going forward, Wilson hopes that the college works to provide more long-distance transportation options to help those who do not have cars at their disposal.
Amoroso also stated that the current problems with student transportation are that “many students still do not have cars on campus, and this creates a clear divide between people that leave and people that don’t.” In terms of how the bikes would be accessible to students, he said that “students will find a bike parked in a designated parking location and use their phone to scan a code that automatically unlocks the bike. Their account is automatically charged.” Students can then ride the bike to any desired location and leave it in designated parking spaces.
Other students have expressed hope for the Mobike movement on campus, including those who have already taken part in sustainable transportation programs.
Maia Harrell ‘20 stated Zipcar “was really convenient because you could always find a parking space. Often the cars were very clean, which was really nice. However, the trips often got expensive, most of the time they cost me $30 a ride. Now, I can fill up my car for $30 and drive for an entire week. [With] access to a bike, I feel like I would use that to go to places like Harris Teeter and places in that area.”
Davis Braswell ’21 has already ridden a Mobike for short distances and reflected positively on his experience. He said he thinks the program is a “really cool idea” and he “intends to use it much more often.”