Posted June 20, 2011 Atlanta, GA
This fall, a new spin will be added to an old mode of transportation on campus. Parking and Transportation has partnered with viaCycle, a startup in the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) spearheaded by Georgia Tech graduates, to bring bike sharing to campus. The company creates technology that enables more efficient bike sharing systems, and is looking for summer beta testers.
“Bike sharing isn’t new, but at universities it’s always been manual before,” said Kyle Azevedo, CEO of viaCycle and a 2010 master’s graduate of the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. The idea is that all students, faculty and staff with a valid BuzzCard will be able to use bicycles that will be locked at bike racks around campus. The bikes are secured electronically and can be locked and unlocked through a simple phone call, text message or smartphone app, and will have GPS tracking so viaCycle can locate the bikes at all times. Users would pre-register with viaCycle to verify their Georgia Tech status and receive an account number used to check bikes in and out.
“We think the ideal model would be to have a prepaid balance that you deduct from as you go,” said Siddharth Doshi, viaCycle’s chief technology officer and also a 2010 master’s graduate from Tech’s mechanical engineering program, in regards to a payment structure. viaCycle will come to campus to recruit participants during its trial phase; early adopters will benefit from getting their first few months free.
“We really want to get people using the service to get feedback,” Doshi said. Users can provide feedback through a form at gt.viacycle.com.
The startup began as a research project while Azevedo and Doshi were students in Tech’s Sustainable Design and Manufacturing lab. Working with Emory University’s bike sharing program, they received a prestigious Ford College Community Challenge Grant last March for $50,000 for the viaCycle concept.
“We were excited to be asked to partner and collaborate on new technology developed right here at Tech,” said Lance Lunsway, senior director of Parking and Transportation. “Bike sharing adds an additional resource for individuals using alternative transportation to get to campus or around campus. We want to make it easy for faculty, staff and students to leave their vehicles at home but still be able to get around campus or surrounding areas with ease.” Lunsway said that despite minor details needing further development or tweaking during the pilot phase, he is confident viaCycle will be successful on campus.
The viaCycle summer trial period precedes a fall launch that will bring 35 bikes to campus. The Biria “Easy Boarding” bikes will be stationed at west campus housing, the Instructional Center, the library and Howey physics, but can be locked and unlocked at any bike rack while checked out and in use around the city. All viaCycle bikes will be registered with the Georgia Tech Police Department, and a maintenance contract with Intown Bicycles will ensure that the equipment remains in working order.
Until the fall launch, those interested in participating in beta testing can sign up online at gt.viacycle.com.