Kinks in VCycle need to be worked out

The Miscellany News.

In the stretch of time between the installation of the VCycle racks and the arrival of the bikes themselves, many people, including myself, were excited about their promise to simplify commuting for Vassar students

I had my doubts—initially, the VCycle racks seemed to be making it harder for students to find places to lock up their personal bikes, especially when it came to the racks in front of Gordon Commons; one of the main racks that people had used for their personal bikes was replaced by a VCycle rack. When I saw people start to lock their own bikes to the VCycle racks, my concern grew. 

As soon as the VCycle bikes arrived, however, people began locking their personal bikes up mainly to the personal bike rack, and an email from the Vassar Student Association (VSA) seemed to have taken care of the confusion. There also seemed to be, to my relief, enough space for people’s personal bikes despite the loss of rack space. 

Of course, there remains the occasional personal bike locked to a VCycle rack. This poses a hindrance to the system because if the spaces are occupied, the bikes cannot be properly returned and borrowed again. 

The location of the racks is perhaps the least controversial thing about VCycle. Since their arrival and the launch of the program, I have not met anyone who has tried out VCycle and not experienced some kind of glitch in the system. 

“I definitely have issues with VCycle,” Aidan Duffy ’25 said. “You are trying to get to class, and you think that renting a bike is going to get you there quicker than walking, and today that happened to me twice both before and after class. I tried to take a VCycle [bike] out and neither of them would load, both at [Rockefeller Hall] and the one by New England Building. That was pretty annoying because if I had known that that was going to happen I would have just walked in the first place.” 

This experience was shared with other students I talked to, including Ben Richardson ’25. “Clearly there were many available bikes on the rack, but when I tried to unlock one of the bikes with the app it just loaded forever and would not actually show any of the available bikes, so I had to walk to [Rockefeller Hall] and try that rack, and that one worked,” Richardson said. 

Richardson expressed a similar reluctance to Duffy when it came to giving VCycle another chance. “I have wanted to try it again but sometimes I don’t know if I have time to deal with the app being slow,” they explained. Immediately upon downloading the app, Richardson noticed it was not very user-friendly. This is also something I noticed—it was awkward and confusing to figure out how to take out a bike the first time I did it, which I could have overlooked if it were not for the fact that it was completely dysfunctional when I attempted to use it for its intended purpose. 

Another factor that has the potential of causing problems down the line is the additional stress VCycle may put on the bike shop. Fixing bikes can take time and money, and while this was likely factored into the VSA’s decision to adopt the program, it would have been impossible to predict exactly how much maintenance the bikes might need. 
This is not to say that I don’t see the value in a bike share program, or that I have given up all hope for VCycle’s positive impact on our campus. If the kinks are worked out, VCycle has the potential to reliably make faster transportation around campus more accessible. After all, according to Harvard School of Public Health’s The Nutrition Source, biking is much faster than walking, it’s great exercise and it’s a greener alternative to driving. The more people VCycle can get on bikes, the better.

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