When McKenzie Campbell went to University of Kentucky orientation this summer, she saw many tables set up, advertising this club, that society and yet another program.
But one caught her eye: "Free bikes."
"I knew I wasn't bringing a car to campus, so I thought it would be helpful," the Louisville freshman said.
So she signed a commitment not to seek a parking permit and now happily bikes to class every day, thanks to the Big Blue Cycles program.
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"With it, I have five minutes to spare," she said. "It's been very helpful."
The convenience is nice, but UK's Office of Sustainability really started the program for another reason: fewer cars and more bikes.
"What we want is for our campus to become more bike- and pedestrian-friendly," UK sustainability coordinator Shane Tedder said.
About 400 people signed up for the program, and the office held a lottery to give away 160 bikes. Tedder said they'll evaluate to see whether they can expand the program, which was financed by UK Parking, the Student Sustainability Council and the finance and administration office.
The idea grew out of the Wildcat Wheels Bike Library program, in which UK scoops up all the bikes left on campus when classes are over. The bikes are repaired and reconstituted, and they can be used on campus by faculty, staff and students for free, like many bike-sharing programs.
These programs will fit in with UK's master plan, which envisions a campus with much less surface parking and many more green spaces to walk and ride. UK allows students who live on campus to apply for parking passes. In 2013, 2,114 UK freshmen had passes, about 36 percent. And as UK's population grows — the school had a record 5,000 freshmen this fall — pressure grows on parking and traffic.
With the city, UK has increased bike lanes around campus and has upgraded bike racks. Last year, the League of American Bicyclists named UK as a "bicycle friendly university," the only one in the state.
Campbell, for one, would like to see more bikes and fewer cars on campus. She'd like to see the whole program expand, possibly making bikes available for students to rent or own.
"I've seen cars that don't stop for students or bikes," she said. "It's really hazardous at some point."