Columns, Opinions

Simshauser ’20: A virtuous cycle

By
Staff Columnist
Wednesday, October 24, 2018

An empty road. No, not empty. A metallic flash of red whirs by, unabated by kinetic friction, gone in an instant. The landscape’s hues begin to desaturate. That is, until another radiant vehicle inevitably zips past. Indeed, the fall semester has ushered in these splendidly vivid, effortlessly quick, electrified JUMP bikes. Fast becoming a fixture of campus life, JUMP bikes are revolutionizing student transportation.

Of course, bicycles have long been used to compress travel times across the rolling inclines of College Hill. But the fixed costs deterred many students from keeping a bicycle on campus. Beyond the financial commitment of purchasing a bike, there is also the responsibility of keeping track of it. From ensuring the bike is locked at all times, maintaining it throughout stormy weather and simply finding a place to keep it, bicycle ownership seems daunting. With the debut of citywide JUMP bikes, however, Brown students can now enjoy the pleasures of riding a bicycle without the steep costs or responsibilities of ownership.

The JUMP bike-share program began in San Francisco in 2017. Nurtured in the entrepreneurial crucible of Silicon Valley, the startup found immediate traction in the Bay Area. It soon expanded to Washington, D.C., before it was bought by Uber in April 2018. JUMP bikes subsequently proliferated into four other cities, including Providence in July, as Uber ambitiously invested in its bike-sharing venture. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza welcomed the program. “Experiencing all that Providence’s neighborhoods have to offer,” Elorza said in a statement to the Providence Journal, “is an experience that should not be missed.”

Elorza’s belief that bike sharing would facilitate exploration of Providence has been manifest on Brown’s campus this year. The vast majority of students do not own cars, thus constraining any tour of the city to one within walking distance. With JUMP bikes, the city has been effectively compressed, with far more of Providence’s attractions suddenly within reach. Traveling between classes has also been streamlined; the dreaded walks from Barus and Holley to Pembroke campus have been reduced to short jaunts with a JUMP bike.

The advantages of increased bicycle usage reach beyond the scope of transportation. There are material environmental benefits as students and locals alike ditch ride-sharing for bike-sharing programs. The battery-powered JUMP bikes are ecologically friendly on their own; moreover, by increasing the visibility of bicycles in general, they can precipitate a cultural shift toward sustainable transportation methods. Elorza described a new vision for Providence as the city moves away from cars as the dominant mode of transport: “We made a conscious effort to plan our city around people,” Elorza said to the Journal, “not around cars.” Those who work in public transportation have also been excited by bike-sharing programs; they envision a cooperation between publicly shared bikes and public buses as a replacement for single-use automobile travel. “The JUMP bike service will provide Rhode Islanders with one more way to leave their cars at home,” Rhode Island Public Transit Authority CEO Scott Avedisian said in a statement to the Journal. Instead of cars, Avedisian hopes more Rhode Islanders “will use a bus-bike combination for their commutes.”

And while it is easy to analyze the positive impact of JUMP bikes through tangible metrics (commute time, emission reductions, etc.), the immaterial benefits of biking are equally important. The ubiquity of JUMP bikes allows for impromptu exercise, which has been shown to aid memory and mental health. A recent study of 36 college students who lightly rode a stationary bike for 10 minutes found that “even light exercise can change people’s brains and minds right away.” The students who rode the bike remembered images more clearly than the control group of students who did not and exhibited calmer heart rates in subsequent hours. As bike-sharing programs grow in popularity around Brown, they increase the physical health of students, and in turn, perhaps their mental well-being.

This is all to say: Bring more JUMP bikes to campus. While they already seem omnipresent, there remains room for growth. The finite supply of bicycles can seem restrictive, especially when facing one of Brown’s many uphill walks that veer into calf workouts. The integrated motor of JUMP bikes make them particularly satisfying on inclines. When you climb a hill, you pedal with more force, and the motor funnels in more power to help you reach the summit with ease. A rider in New York explained, “It doesn’t feel like cheating — it gets the rider to think, ‘Hey, I’m much stronger than I thought.’”

The introduction of JUMP bikes has already been a boon for the Brown community, with the campus becoming more connected internally and the city beyond College Hill growing more accessible. An influx of bikes would only amplify these benefits and further concretize the shift away from cars as the normative form of transportation. As JUMP bikes streamline connections around Brown’s physical campus, so too is the sense of community bolstered.

Derek Simshauser ’20 recently purchased a pair of gloves to keep his hands warm while he JUMP bikes. He can be reached at derek_simshauser@brown.edu. Please send responses to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.

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