News Release: Sustainability, University News

Mar. 9,  2010

Emory to Partner With Georgia Tech in Ford Funded Bike Share Program

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The Georgia Institute of Technology today receives a prestigious $50,000 Ford College Community Challenge Grant.  The grant, provided by the Ford Motor Company Fund, will be used to establish an innovative bike share program with bikes from Emory University's successful bike share program.  Designed by mechanical engineering students from the Sustainable Design and Manufacturing program at Georgia Tech, this unique project creates a "kiosk-free" bike share infrastructure called "viaCycle." Bicycles can be located and checked in and out with the use of text messages from any mobile phone, making the system incredibly easy to use.

 The Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3) is a national challenge grant competition that recognizes colleges and universities that utilize a school's resources and capacity to address an urgent, unmet social need or problem in the local community.  Proposals must address the theme of the Challenge - Building Sustainable Communities - in some unique and innovative way. Unlike many traditional college grant programs, Ford C3 requires colleges to create project proposals that have significant student input, involvement and leadership from beginning to end. Only five Ford C3 awards are made each year.

"Winning proposals have a distinctive student perspective on what it means to have a sustainable community," said Mike Schmidt, director of Education and Community Development at Ford Motor Company Fund.  "Each year, we select five winning proposals to receive this one-time award.  The Georgia Tech-Emory proposal caught our eye since it involved a public and private university collaboration and an exciting, new approach to a bike share program."  

For the winning proposal, Georgia Tech and Emory University combined the successful Bike Emory program with the student-created viaCycle bike distribution solution.  Created in 2007, Bike Emory is an innovative partnership between Emory University, Advanced Sports Inc. and Bicycle South designed to support a richer bicycling experience on and around Emory's campus. This partnership allows Bike Emory to provide cyclists with a bike share program, discounts on bicycles, an on-campus bike repair/parts station, classes on bike safety and other programming events.

"We believe this is an excellent project and we're excited to partner with the Bike Emory program to positively impact the way Atlanta commutes," said Dr. Bert Bras, Georgia Tech professor of mechanical engineering.  

"We're excited to serve as a test bed for the viaCycle," said Jamie Smith, director of Bike Emory.  "This is a wonderful way to expand transportation options at Emory."

The viaCyle bike distribution solution offers lower operating costs (one-half to one-tenth the cost of traditional systems, depending on application), a larger potential market, better functionality and greater user appeal than existing bike share programs.  ViaCycle's flagship product is a technologically advanced "bikeshare in a box": everything an organization needs to set up seamless first and last-mile transit connectivity.  The bicycles are equipped with integrated smart-locks, used to secure the bicycle when not in use.  These smart-locks are feature GPS and wireless communications, and are connected to viaCycle's central servers and software system.   Program administrators have full access to this system, allowing them to track usage, set up billing, schedule bicycle maintenance and more.  Kiosks and bike racks are no longer needed, meaning program operators can place bikes for maximum convenience.  

The first full fleet of bikes will be available for use on Emory University's campus by the summer of 2010.  Future plans call for fleets at Georgia Tech and in neighborhoods between both campuses that will integrate with Emory's system and improve connectivity in the corridor.

Ford C3 was launched in 2008 as a new national challenge grant competition of the Ford Motor Company Fund.  In March 2009, Ford Fund implemented the second round of the Ford College Community Challenge, awarding five winning proposals with one-time awards to implement their projects.  Ford C3 winning proposals for 2009 came from:  Michigan Tech University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Georgia Institute of Technology and Michigan State University. Through these winning projects, students will be:

  • Creating an innovative bike share program in an urban environment;
  • Assisting senior community residents in better insulating their homes during the winter;
  • Using information technology to increase energy efficiency within a community's residential area, and creating a market for energy-efficient rental units;
  • Assisting a local non-profit organization significantly expand its operations; and
  • Assisting small and medium-sized local companies in developing and implementing export strategies for their products and services

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