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Meet mBike: A Complete Guide to UMD’s Bike-Share Program

Bikes placed in bike rack
Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Prudent universities everywhere are turning to bike shares to solve their transportation needs, and the University of Maryland is no exception. Here’s everything you need to know about this important and exciting facet of our transportation network.

What is bike sharing?

Conceived in the 1960s as a solution to Amsterdam’s transportation woes, bike sharing’s first iteration involved anarchists making free, unlocked bikes available for anyone to ride. Dubbed the White Bicycle Plan, the scheme soon failed when scofflaws stole and vandalized the bikes.

So wait, is bike sharing just an anarchist pipe dream?

Not at all! In the half-century since Amsterdam’s experiment, bike sharing has improved and evolved to become a crucial component of transportation systems worldwide. And as technological innovations have made bike shares simpler to use and more cost-effective to build, bike sharing has moved from big cities into smaller urban ecosystems, such as colleges.

That’s where mBike comes in.

mBike? You mean that ubiquitous 90s pop song?

Sadly, no. mBike has nothing to do with Hanson — it’s the joint bike share of College Park and UMD. Operated by Zagster, the system launched in May 2016 with 125 bikes and 14 stations on campus and around town.

What in the world is Zagster? I thought this was UMD’s bike share?

It is — Zagster just manages all the details.

Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Zagster is the leading provider of campus bike shares in North America. In addition to UMD, Zagster operates bike shares for other prestigious universities including Yale, Princeton, Duke, Ohio State, and Purdue.

Got it. So what’s so great about campus bike sharing?

Bike shares are natural fits for universities because they enable swift trips on, off, and around campus. Riding a bike share is: faster than walking; healthier than riding mass transit; and more convenient than driving and parking — assuming you can even find a parking space on a crowded campus. Campus bike shares are also:

  • Cost-effective for students — Going carless for college saves students around $20,000
  • Efficient uses of college funds — The cost of building a single urban parking space ranges between $20,000 and $30,000; entire bike shares can cost less than that
  • A healthy way to lose the Freshman 15 — Purdue students burned 750,000 calories in six months by riding our bikes;
  • Eco-friendly transit — Purdue saved 15,000 pounds of CO2 emissions in that same span

Plus, riding a bike share is just plain fun.

Sounds great. But isn’t biking dangerous?

That’s a common misconception. Studies have shown biking to be as safe as driving and walking. Digging deeper, studies have also shown that bike sharing is much safer than riding a personal bike.

Sending kids to college can be a scary time for parents and families. But bike sharing is one thing you don’t need to worry about.

Alright, I’m sold. How does it work? And who can use it?

Though students are the primary users, mBike is available to all residents of and visitors to College Park. After signing up for daily, monthly, six-month, or annual passes, riders can check out any bike in the system and ride wherever they want, as long as they want. Bikes can be found via the free Zagster Mobile App — available for iPhone and Android — or online at zagster.com/mbike.

OK, so what’s the catch?

No catch. Rides are free for the first hour, and then just three dollars per hour after that. Over the course of a semester, riders can pay just a fraction of what they’d otherwise spend on other means of transportation.

Anything else I should know?

Just because our students are Terrapins doesn’t mean they have to move as slow as turtles. mBike is here to make their travel fast, fun and efficient, and we hope everyone takes it for a spin.

For more information, visit zagster.com/mbike