The University of Tennessee at Martin’s pedestrian main campus includes 250 acres, and as technical classes extend further onto the 680-acre teaching farm, students are left with a long walk to and from classes that can’t always be accomplished in the 10-minute time frame allotted.
In order to help alleviate this challenge for students, Dr. Sandy Mehlhorn and Dr. Emalee Buttrey, on behalf of the Skyhawk Tractor Team and the UTM Student Cattleman’s Association, have created a bicycle share program, which allows students, faculty and staff to rent bikes for free to ride across campus and the surrounding community.
Through a grant awarded by the UT Martin Center for Sustainability and supporting funds from the Department of Agriculture, Geosciences and Natural Resources, Mehlhorn and Buttrey were able to purchase five bikes and docking stations that will be located outside of Brehm Hall and the Boling University Center. As ridership increases on campus, Mehlhorn says the goal is to add more bikes to the program.
“Dr. Buttrey and I were looking for grants to help with transportation. It started for just our agriculture students because our campus classrooms have really expanded. We have classrooms over in the football stadium; we have classes over on the teaching farm, and we got to looking at it, and there were a lot of students who were walking,” Mehlhorn said. “To walk from the (apartment) phases to the farthest classroom building is a mile. That’s really a challenge for a lot of students, so we started looking at some (transportation) options for those students.”
After determining bikes were the most feasible and reliable mode of transportation across campus, the pair began the grant-proposal process and were awarded a 2020 Center for Sustainability grant to purchase the bikes and install the docking stations. The bicycles are white with a basket on the back and are outfitted with the UT Martin logo.
“Hopefully this will provide a little more mobility for students, and they can get out and enjoy the bikes.”
The bikes can be rented for two to three hours at a time through the app “MOVATIC” that monitors the use and location of the bike through Bluetooth. The app can also be used to report maintenance needs and if any issues arise while being rented. All riders will need to access the bikes are a UT Martin ID number and email address.
In order to deter theft of the bikes while being rented, each bike is outfitted with a U-lock to secure them when away from a docking station.
“I just hope the students who need (the service) will use it,” Mehlhorn said. “I hope to see fewer students walking the farm road on their way to class, and that they’ll be able to enjoy it. Just help us take care of the bikes.”
As a necessary precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic, each docking station will include sanitary wipes for riders to clean the bikes after using them to curb the spread of the virus.
For more information about the bike share program, contact Mehlhorn at email@example.com.