If you have gone around UP Diliman, you could not have missed at least one of the 40 identical bicycles parked in campus. All painted in red, relatively new, and marked with a popping white imprint that is hard to miss: the logo of UP Bike Share, the University’s first and only bike sharing organization.
Bike sharing is different from bike rentals and biking in general in that it is a public scheme where bicycles are shared by individuals for short term use for a fee or free of charge. Riders can pick up any available bike from the rack in a station of his or her origin, use the bike, then drop it off to another station near the rider’s destination. Bike sharing is a novel concept in the Philippines although it has already been widely used in Europe, China, and the United States.
Before 08 August 2015, UP Bike Share was nothing more than a wild idea of engineering student Migi Laperal. UP Bike Share’s pioneering team of five students put the idea in motion starting with one bike, then ten bikes, out of their own pockets. The first set of bikes were stationed at the Math building, Molave, Yakal, and Kalayaan dormitories. Since then, the system has grown into a thriving startup that has won a Department of Science and Technology (DOST) grant and has become into an official student organization with over 100 members and alumni.
UP Bike Share is both a service and an advocacy. “We get people to places” is their tagline that hits the mark both literally and metaphorically. Students use the bikes to get from one building to another. An average of 15 riders per day use the service during the previous academic year. From another perspective, the bikes are also a means of heading to a different kind of future: one where clean, reliable, and sustainable modes of transportation are accessible and preferred.
Bike Share is laser focused in transforming the way students move within UP and they know they have a long way to go in making their service part of the norm. The bikes are visible to most students but only a small number of them are curious enough to find out about the service. To pique interest, the group launched a hyped up information campaign through social media last semester to drive home the message that bike sharing is convenient in a 493-hectare University. The organization leveraged the convenience of their service vis-a-vis travelling on foot to the far side of campus. They highlighted how a subscriber could unlock an available bike within seconds of sending an SMS to the system. The group has also launched their newly revamped website www.upbikeshare.org on January 22 this year.
With their most recent marketing campaign “Bike Sharing is caring,” UP Bike Share works to drive forward an advocacy that goes beyond being smart and practical. Their slogan sparks people’s concern for the environment and our role in building a more sustainable future. The simple choice of biking becomes a radical involvement in a community that shakes things up for the better and in clean style.
Members of the organization can attest to how being part of UP Bike Share has added an extra level of social and environmental awareness in them as well as prep them in their own career paths.
“Being a member of Bike Share means being aware of the current issues facing our country, especially in the area of transportation. It also gave me an awareness of the inadequacy of public transportation in the country. One solution to this, we have found, is using cars less and bikes more,” says incumbent UP Bike Share president Howard Chua.
Without a doubt, bike sharing solves an existing problem. But more than meeting transportation needs and serving the community, it brings the community together toward a shared goal.
“My favorite thing about Bike Share is the sense of community that it brings. The shared goal of making transportation more convenient for our riders and the environment really brought all our members closer together.” says Chua.
The community that constitutes UP Bike Share is as diverse as any advocacy group can get. With the mix of ideas and passions brought into the group, UP Bike Share has come up with projects other than bike sharing. They host a special lineup of events every academic year to further promote their advocacies. Some of their major events are Sabay Lakbay, Bike Share Week, and First Day Ride.
Sabay Lakbay is an annual Earth Day bike ride to selected eco-parks in Quezon City. This event is meant to be a symbol of support for the world and for Earth Week. Last year, newbies and veteran bikers biked as a group to Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center and Balara Park. This year, the group is inviting everyone on April 28 for another Earth Day ride of touring the city and even getting free biking lessons.
Bike Share Week, a week-long sustainability fair that happened in November, is the organization’s way of engaging the students through fun booths, bike rides, and educational talks given by top names in the field of sustainability.
First Day Ride (my personal favorite) is a University bike tour to welcome freshies before the semester officially starts. The tour helps freshies familiarize themselves with the campus they are going to call home for the next four years or so.
Over the years, these activities have solidified the group’s message and engaged the community in more ways than one. UP Bike Share has also been expanding its operations to cater to a growing consumer base. Presently, the group has nine stations around campus: AS Building, Gym, EEE Building, Melchor Hall, Institute of Civil Engineering Building, Lagmay Hall, Main Library, Math Building, and Vinzons Hall. The members are also gearing up to add a total of 100 brand new bikes very soon. Their next big move will be the installation of smart locks and GPS trackers to the bikes.
Now, if you are itching to know what it takes to be a rider or a member of this sustainability-driven community-centered organization, wait no longer! You can avail of the bike sharing service and get behind their advocacy by signing up to be a rider or a member on their website or at the UP Bike Share office on the 5th floor of the EEE Building. They accept rider sign-ups all-throughout the semester with affordable monthly or semestral subscriptions (P50 for a one-month subscription and P150 for one whole semester). As for memberships, interested applicants need to step on the pedal quickly as their apps’ orientation this semester will take place on January 31 at the EEE Building Rooftop. Members get to enjoy a free rider subscription good for one semester as they work with the organization.
UP Bike Share’s growing community of rad riders and members shows the emergence of a generation that cares consciously about how small choices affect the world on a large scale.