Check it Out
University community can check out more than just books at VCU Libraries
University Public Affairs
Everyone knows you can check out books for free from the library, but at Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries patrons can check out bicycles as well.
Thanks to a pilot program between the VCU Libraries, RamBikes and VCU Goes Green, James Branch Cabell and Tompkins-McCaw libraries each loan out four bikes for 24-hour periods. Since the program launched on March 27, Cabell alone has already rented the bikes out more than 50 times.
"We're trying to eliminate one of the barriers to cycling, which is, in order to learn how cool it is — and really biking will speak for itself — you have to have one," said Brantley Tyndall, alternative transportation coordinator, Physical Plant Department. "You have to be able to have the opportunity to try it out before you want to buy it. So that's largely what we're doing now and people's experience has been really good so far. They're in high demand. They're rarely available to be rented actually, because so many people want them all the time."
The first two times the bikes were rented were in the middle of the night.
"They were rented at 2 and 3:30 in the morning from users at the library," Tyndall said. "So I assume that [the students] were probably studying late and then they went home. I'd much rather ride this home than have to walk home."
Making the bikes available through VCU Libraries was a natural fit, said M. Teresa Doherty, VCU Libraries head of Circulation and Information Services and interim head of Media and Reserve Services.
"VCU Libraries' vision statement begins with 'VCU Libraries opens doors to learning and discovery,'" she said. "While bicycles are not part of our traditional library collection, we believe that this service will help students to learn and discover the world around them, here in the city of Richmond, on a practical and hands-on level."
Luca Terziotti, president of the Cycling Club at VCU, hopes the new program will raise awareness about the myriad benefits of cycling.
"A lot of people just don't really realize that a bike is a good option to get around town," he said. "They know that they can drive to class or they can walk to class. Or take a bus. But a lot of times, riding is a much more convenient option.
"It's fun. That's the big thing about bicycling. What makes it such good exercise is it’s a lot of fun to do. You get on a bike, you go out, you get a better sense of your community, because you're not just going through it in the aluminum box of a car. You're actually experiencing the streets. You're getting a better look at the architecture, you're actually hearing the people on the street. You really get an in-depth view of the neighborhood. And that's a lot of fun."
The organizers want to keep the turnover rate high so everyone can have the chance to use the bikes, which can be rented for 24 hours, with one renewal period. Cycling hopefuls can check bike availability on the Libraries' online catalog, under the title "RamBike." Anyone that can check something out from the VCU Libraries can check out one of the loaner bikes.
The Sun Atlas X-frame bikes, which suit a wide range of heights, are basic, single-speed coaster bikes. Helmets and locks automatically come with the rental, and patrons must sign a liability waiver.
The RamBike program is the university's latest venture in making its campuses bike friendly. Its efforts are paying off, as VCU garners more attention and accolades. The university recently received the League of American Bicyclists Silver Award and designation as a Bicycle Friendly University. The BFU program recognizes higher education institutions for promoting and providing a more bicycle-friendly campus for students, staff and visitors.
"The reason bikes are being significantly invested in at VCU is to address VCU's climate action plan," said Tyndall. "We're trying to eliminate the need for people to have to drive to campus or, if you live on campus, the need to have a car while you're here. So if we can provide bikes or other methods for getting around town, we're addressing the use of fossil fuels, we're addressing smart growth and urban design and just we're really improving the way people interact with the VCU campus and community."