ValloCycle Bike-Share Program

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Formed through a collaborative partnership between the City and University of Montevallo, the ValloCycle Program exists as a city wide initiative to enhance overall community walkability and individual citizen engagement with a lifestyle of sustainable, alternative transportation. The ValloCycle Program's primary means of achieving these goals is through its day-to-day operation of the ValloCycle Bike-Share Program, the first county-wide bicycle sharing program in the state of Alabama to offer low-cost bicycle rentals to all the members of its community. Unlike other nearby campus bike-share programs, ValloCycle bicycle rentals are not limited solely to university students, and are also not confined to one location. Rather, bicycle rentals are offered to all residents of Montevallo and the surrounding Shelby County area in three separate check-out locations. Annual membership fees amount to roughly $2 a month per adults, $1 a month per child, can be paid alternatively by a commitment of community service with a local charitable, campus, city, or religious agency, and also include accompanying helmet and locking mechanisms for user safety and security.[1][2]

In addition to this program, volunteer city, campus, and community representatives of the City of Montevallo's ValloCycle Recreational Board also work towards more effective pedestrian and bicyclist on- and off- roadway infrastructure within the Montevallo city limits, and also serve to educate citizens on bicycle safety, repair, and operation through a variety of free, public courses.[3]

The ValloCycle Bike-Share Program history[edit]

Inspired by an educational webinar on bike-sharing programs worldwide hosted by the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, city council representatives Hollie Cost and Dee Woodham engaged students within the University of Montevallo's Environmental Studies program to research the feasibility of such a program within Montevallo.[4]

Early program development centered around a desire to distance the program from the features of both other campus bike-share programs in the area (which served only university populations) and large-scale corporate programs (which required that members both possess credit cards and accept usage fees based on specific time increments for every bicycle rental). In order to encourage bicycling as a healthy, environmentally conscious, and primarily affordable means of transportation and recreation in a small-town, rural environment lacking any other form of publicly accessible transportation, the annual membership fee structure was created to be as unrestrictive as possible for individuals and families of all income levels.[5][6]

In a successful community bicycle donation drive, over 100 new and used bicycles were received through the local Region's Bank, Bob's Bikes repair shop, city police department, and individual families and residents. Students from the University of Montevallo Environmental Club accordingly spent several months repairing 35 used bicycles of all types and sizes for future use in the program. Through a successful outreach campaign, bicycles received baskets, locking mechanisms, and helmets from over twenty-five local independent businesses; each sponsored bicycle in turn was adorned with uniquely designed advertising fixtures to provide publicity for the sponsoring business.[7]

The ValloCycle Bike-Share Program debuted October 14, 2011, in conjunction with the University of Montevallo's 114th Founder's Day celebration of sustainability. During that same month, the ValloCycle volunteer committee was also incorporated as an official recreational board underneath the supervision of the City of Montevallo.[8][9][10]

Currently, volunteer coordinators within the ValloCycle Program offer bicycle rentals from the University of Montevallo's Carmichael Library, the City of Montevallo's Parnell Library, and the city police department, the latter of which offers 24/7 bicycle rentals. Memberships come with unlimited 8-day rentals/renewals for one entire year from a fleet of over fifty Region's cruisers, mountain, road, and children's bicycles. Membership fees are $25 a year for adults, $10 a year for children, and are used solely to sustain the repairs and maintenance of said bicycles.. Memberships can also be paid for through community service, with rental rights granted at the completion of 10 volunteer service hours with any city, university, charitable, religious, or other community agency within Montevallo.[11][12][13] [14]

All bicycles receive weekly maintenance checks from the ValloCycle Projects Coordinator, the Montevallo Public Works Department, or Health Education and Kiniesiology students from the University of Montevallo. ValloCycle bicycle rentals are also available free of charge to any physical education teacher within the local Montevallo public school system.

ValloCycle Program community projects[edit]

"Share the Lane" Initiative[edit]

In conjunction with the Montevallo City Council and Public Works Department, successfully advocated and implemented the first city-wide "Share the Lane" initiative for any municipality in the state of Alabama. Initiative included the designation of over thirty high-traffic city streets, low-visibility roads and bridges, small residential neighborhoods, and school zones as "sharrows" lanes, complete with custom-made, readily identifiable signage bearing the ValloCycle logo. Recently utilized in the City of Birmingham, "sharrows" lanes are a unique infrastructure enhancement particularly adept at improving the safety and accessibility of bicyclists on roads too narrow for other roadway additions.[15]

In addition to visible on-roadway signage to automatically raise motorist awareness as to bicyclist’ and pedestrians’ presence, a two-pronged ValloCycle educational PR campaign has resulted in positive press for this initiative in both local and regional news outlets, as well as heightened community support for the project through the display of educational placards at over fifty high-traffic community locations. These placard displays provide educational information about the need for greater bicycling and pedestrian enhancements to the roadways, and also explains just what the signs are intended to mean to both cyclists and motorists, respectively. The rights and obligations of both road users’ are represented in the educational campaign.

ValloCycle Town Map Project[edit]

Fully researched, authored, and designed by ValloCycle volunteer student coordinators, and developed in collaboration with the Birmingham Regional Planning Commission and the Montevallo Chamber of Commerce, the ValloCycle Town Map Project provides free publicity to over 50 cultural, sustainable, and commercial destinations unique to the Montevallo community. Perhaps most importantly, it emphasizes the easy accessibility of all of these locations via bicycle, and informs readers of the purpose and mission of the ValloCycle program and where individuals and families can go to get started cycling. Out-of-town destinations are specifically showcased as bicycling day trips, and the map also contains the most current depiction of the 2.5-mile Montevallo Parks Trail greenway system.[16]

Bicycle Parking as Public Art Project[edit]

In conjunction with the University of Montevallo's Service Learning Department, the ValloCycle Board challenged the students of the Spring 2012 "Public Sculpture" course to design, fabricate, and install unique interpretations of bicycle parking facilities.

University of Montevallo student education[edit]

In conjunction with the University of Montevallo's Service Learning Department, the ValloCycle Board worked closely with the UM Kinesiology Department to center the curriculum of an existing required course for all Kinesiology majors to incorporate bicycle safety and maintenance skills. Upon completion of the course, students received certification to teach these same skills to children in the public school system. Throughout the course, each UM student was also required to test their knowledge in bicycle safety by administering supervised bike safety seminars to classes of children in the local elementary, intermediate, and high schools. Students’ technical knowledge was honed and tested by a required number of after-class service hours performing basic maintenance and repairs to ValloCycle bicycles.[17]

Community education[edit]

"Repairs to Resumes"[edit]

The ValloCycle Program's "Repairs to Resumes" course is a month-long series of afterschool youth workshops in bicycle safety and maintenance, hosted quarterly throughout the year. Participating students, ranging from ages 12 to 18, are recommended by local school administrators for demonstrating particular behavioral and academic "at-risk" behaviors. Students are then taught the essentials of basic and advanced bicycle repair in a structured classroom environment that emphasizes both the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists on the roadway as well as the gainful employment opportunities available to the students in the growing county and regional bicycle industry. All technical skills taught in the course are verified by the owners of local bicycle repair shops as trade skills that will put students ahead of other applicants when seeking employment. Students are required to pass a number of hands-on performance tests, and are given the opportunity to test their knowledge on ValloCycle bicycles of their own choice. Incorporated into the curriculum of every workshop are various recreational excursions that also serve to highlight community "green" spaces, such as the Montevallo Parks Trail, the UM Organic Community Garden, and historic Davis Falls.

Since students are rewarded with honorary ValloCycle memberships upon the completion of a safety and maintenance quiz, through its relationship with local school administrators, its coordinators frequently seek to bring in at-risk students whose families either suffer from inadequate transportation or whose behavior infractions have barred them from the public school bussing system.

Bicycle education sessions[edit]

Through bi-monthly, free, open-community Bicycle Education Sessions, individuals, families, and local school, recreational, and church organizations are regularly and openly invited to attend day-long public bicycle practice seminars in the relaxed and natural setting of scenic Orr Park . Essentially, all participants are taught how to ride a bike in a free, hands-on, and comfortable setting, with advanced traffic and recreational riding skills taught to returning participants.

reCYCLEd art[edit]

The reCYCLEd art courses also provide a unique setting wherein participants are instructed on how to convert rusted, unusable bicycle parts into works of art. The first course, to be hosted in March, will give participants from the Montevallo Senior Center the opportunity to construct a working chandelier from bicycle parts too damaged for actual bicycle repair purposes. The second reCYCLEd art course will focus on designing and piecing together hand-crafted jewelry from bicycle parts, and will also consist of several in-class group discussions on how participants might utilize unusable or unneeded products from their own homes for personal economic benefit.

Community events[edit]

Montevallo "Tour By Bike"[edit]

In conjunction with local independent business Eclipse Coffee and Books, the ValloCycle Board offers the Montevallo "Tour By Bike", a two-hour cycling tour of sustainable campus projects, community green spaces, and the local side of the downtown shopping district. The primary goal of this event was to promote bicycling within the community to the city's newest residents: the newest class of freshmen at the University of Montevallo. This event has been the focus of campus-wide campus celebrations of "green" projects and programs, and has since received significant press coverage by local news outlets. The Montevallo "Tour By Bike" is currently hosted twice throughout the year, and serves to raise student and community awareness about the wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities within the community.[18]

Organizational partnerships[edit]

In addition to its own primary partnership with the organization, the ValloCycle Board is responsible for instituting an official connection between the City of Montevallo and the CommuteSmart Program.

The CommuteSmart Program is a federally funded commuter incentive program developed and coordinated by the Birmingham Regional Planning Commission to alleviate air quality pollution and commuter traffic congestion, issues which are inextricably connected within this region.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Press, Associated (29 December 2011). "Green Group Tornado Cleanup A Bright Spot For Alabama". Associated Press. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  2. ^ Spencer, Tom (2 January 2012). "Birmingham Bike Share Program Pedals Into Downtown Life". Birmingham News. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  3. ^ Schneider, Lauren (December 2011), A New Ride, Birmingham Magazine 
  4. ^ Spencer, Tom (2 January 2012). "Birmingham Bike Share Program Pedals Into Downtown Life". Birmingham News. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  5. ^ Spencer, Tom (2 January 2012). "Birmingham Bike Share Program Pedals Into Downtown Life". Birmingham News. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  6. ^ "ValloCycle Launches Program". University of Montevallo Public Relations Department. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  7. ^ Spencer, Tom (2 January 2012). "Birmingham Bike Share Program Pedals Into Downtown Life". Birmingham News. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  8. ^ Boatwright, Christine (14 October 2011). "ValloCycle Program Rolls into Reality". Shelby County Reporter. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  9. ^ Chambers, Jesse (26 October 2011). "Reinventing With Wheels: Montevallo Bike Share Program a Product of New Sustainability Partnerships". WELD For Birmingham. 
  10. ^ "Thursday, October 20, 2011: New bike share program underway in Montevallo". Alabama Solar Association. 20 October 2011. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  11. ^ Boatwright, Christine (14 October 2011). "ValloCycle Program Rolls into Reality". Shelby County Reporter. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Delcambre, Shannon (19 October 2011). "New Bike Share Program Underway in Montevallo". Alabama's 13 News. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  13. ^ Agliata, Kate (October 2011). "Montevallo Introduces a New Bike Share Program". My Green Birmingham. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  14. ^ "Talk of Alabama: October 10, 2011". Talk of Alabama, ABC 33/40. October 2011. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  15. ^ Chambers, Jesse (16 December 2011). "Sharing the lanes: New biking infrastructure in Montevallo". WELD For Birmingham. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  16. ^ Agliata, Kate (1 February 2012). "Vallocycle Creates Town Map, Showcases Local Businesses & Sustainability". My Green Birmingham. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 
  17. ^ Kennedy, Veronica (4 January 2012). "Montevallo residents embrace new bike share program". Birmingham News. Retrieved 28 February 2012. 
  18. ^ Sides, Melinda (13 October 2011). "UM celebrates sustainability at 115th Founder's Day". Fox 6 WBRC. Retrieved 28 February 2012.