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Decision on OSU Bike Share Near, Concerns Raised over Connectivity

Brent Warren Brent Warren Decision on OSU Bike Share Near, Concerns Raised over ConnectivityPhoto by Walker Evans.
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An Ohio State University working group, which has been working for nearly a year on a plan to bring bike sharing to campus, is planning to announce their recommendations this month. Bids were due last week from five different vendors, including CoGo, the bike share system that launched in 2013 with 30 stations and 300 bikes in and around downtown.

Apart from the selection of a vendor, the working group will also weigh in on the form that the new bike share system will take – will it be a campus-only system, an extension of the existing CoGo system, or a hybrid system providing connectivity to other parts of the city in a different way?

The hybrid approach could involve expanding CoGo to the north, but just along High Street, providing access to the the edge of campus. Once there, users could switch to a campus-only system run by a different company. CoGo currently extends only as far north as Second Avenue in the Short North, but is hoping to expand this year.

Jordan Davis of the Columbus Partnership sits on the Student Engagement Steering Committee, a body formed by the university to bridge the gap between “town and gown.” She is concerned that the decision-makers at OSU have not grasped the impact that one seamless bike share system could have on the ability of students, faculty, staff and Columbus residents to easily travel to and from campus. She is hopeful that there is still time to influence the decision.

“Without knowing the results of the working group, my hope is that throughout their decision-making they are thinking about the student experience and the fact that so much of their learning happens beyond the confines of campus. They have such an important role to play in enabling students to have access to resources past Eleventh and Lane.”

If CoGo is not selected, or if a plan is put in place that prioritizes travel within campus over connections to surrounding neighborhoods, “it would remind us how much work we have to do to become not just two communities in one city, but one, connected community that is working together for the economic health of the region,” she said.

Davis has worked on initiatives like the annual Student Welcome Event in Nationwide Area, a tour of Columbus for Resident Advisors and a recent video targeting students that touts the city’s offerings.

“We’ve learned through activities that we’ve done that a big barrier is transportation,” she said. “Having access to a bike share program that flows seamlessly from where students live, to where they study to where they want to go will have a big impact…this is a huge investment in infrastructure that will put a stake in the ground for how students interact and get around.”

Heather Bowden, CoGo’s general manager, is hopeful that they will hear good news, and is excited about the possibility of continued growth.

“For the past year and a half we’ve provided very high quality bike share for the City of Columbus,” she said. “We think it would be wonderful to be able to provide this great transportation option for members of the OSU community and integrate the campus even more into the urban experience of Columbus with bike share.”

A spokesperson for OSU, while not sharing any details of the deliberation process, said that one of the goals laid out by the university for a potential bike share system is to offer connectivity to “other neighborhoods throughout the city.” Other goals are to “provide a sustainable active campus transportation option,” and to “conveniently and safely move people from one place to another on campus.” The last goal would support the “park once” philosophy, a key tenet of OSU’s new transportation plan.

For more information, visit www.cogobikeshare.com.

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