BY MARCUS MITCHELL
Despite companies like Uber and Lyft shining in the spotlight of college student transportation, bike riding has remained popular among not only Tampa residents, but UT students as well. Nowadays it is nearly impossible to walk through campus without seeing at least one student whizzing by, their hair in the wind and notebooks tucked under their arms.
While many students elect to bring their personal bicycles with them to school, UT offers a bike rental program at no cost to students. Bike UT is a program maintained by campus recreation that allows students to rent bikes between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m Sunday through Saturday. All bikes are also fitted with a helmet and lock for students without those necessities. With the current construction of the new fitness center underway, the location to rent the bikes has moved to the Cass gym; but this has not stopped Coordinator of Fitness Brittany Schrader from encouraging students to take advantage of the opportunity.
“There are tons of benefits of biking opposed to taxis and uber rides,” Schrader said. “First of all, it’s free. Riding a bike, rather than getting in a car, addresses many important issues such as health and environmental sustainability, transportation alternatives and promoting community building on campus.”
Although the four-hour window that Bike UT offers isn’t always the most convenient, it does offer enough time for students to get the most out of their rental. For example, the bikes are fitted with baskets, making it capable for a student to pick up a package from the post office that they don’t feel like carrying back to their dorm. It also allows students to leisurely ride through campus and Plant Park. With only a student I.D. required to rent a bike, Bike UT is ideal to quickly grab a bike and go for an errand or just a ride with roommates.
But for students whose biking interest goes beyond the four hour availability of Bike UT, bikes can also be rented from Coast Bike Share, according to junior government and world affairs major Samuel Thomas. While also taking classes at UT, Thomas serves as the customer engagement representative for CycleHop, the company that owns and operates Coast Bike Share.
“Bike riding and walking has become ever more popular because people like to live close to everything and can’t always afford a car,” Thomas said. “We want to replace the use of cars for as many trips as we can. Students who live nearby campus could easily use the bikeshare to commute to class.”
Open 24 hours every day of the week, Coast Bike Share has made many Tampa residents put down their car keys and grab their bike helmets. But the program seems to be focusing its efforts on the college student demographic. With an hourly rate of $8, a daily bike commute to campus begins to add up as the UT semester wears on, so Coast Bike Share offers students a special annual plan of $59. The plan allows students 60 minutes each day for every day of the year, a deal that junior business management major Drew Torre is eager to take advantage of.
“I don’t ride bikes enough to warrant buying one of my own,” Torre said. “But sometimes I do want to take a ride on a bike to get groceries instead of giving up my parking spot just for some Gatorade. The student deal seems like a lot, but even if I just use it once a month I’m saving money.”
Currently, the closest Coast Bike Share rack to UT is located near Oxford Exchange, but Thomas hopes to one day get the bikes as close as right outside student dorms. Coast Bike Share already has a system in place with USF known as Share-A-Bull, so a cutely named partnership and hubs on campus could be possible in the future. But until then, UT students can still easily get their hands on bikes to explore Tampa.
The most popular destination has been the new Tampa Riverwalk, which is lined with attractions ranging from the Tampa Bay History Center, the American Victory Ship Museum, and the Native American Cenotaph. The 2.5-mile waterfront trail is great for students looking for a fresh look at the city, while making a few stops along the way.
But for students more into making an adventure out of their rental, Ybor is just a 20 minute bike ride away from campus. Although known more for it’s nightlife, a bike ride through Ybor is like a bike ride through the heart of Cuba. Students can lock up their bikes outside of Ybor’s countless shops and enjoy a cigar or grab some cafe con leche before heading back to the brick walls of UT.
And for students not into museums or shopping, a simple bike ride through Davis Island could be a relaxing end to a day of stressful schoolwork. No matter where you end up, biking through Tampa is a unique way to explore the city that UT students call home. So strap on your helmets and hit the streets.