Off to the races: Why Green Apple Bikes prove difficult to find

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Whether it’s the bicycles themselves or the return racks located around Manhattan and the Kansas State campus, it’s difficult to miss a Green Apple Bike’s signature neon green hue.

While the bicycles’ brightly colored frames are difficult to miss, actually finding a bike around campus has proven to be a struggle for some students, including Hannah Casteel, freshman in personal finance planning.

“Whenever I get to the bike rack, they’re gone, and I can never use them,” Casteel said. “I have arthritis in my feet. I’ve got to ride a bike sometimes … but they’re never there.”

Despite the fact that there are over 200 bicycles in circulation, Casteel’s struggle to find a bike is not uncommon. One student at K-State has firsthand experience with the source of this problem.

As part of a project for Boy Scout Troop 74, Ethan Chege, freshman in finance, said he volunteered to patrol around Manhattan and the K-State campus and collect discarded Green Apple Bikes. Most of the bikes found over the span of four days could not even be ridden.

“There were about 50 to 60 bikes I’d say,” Chege said. “Seats were falling off, some of the tires were just ripped apart. … One of them we picked up, the chains were completely missing.”

Many of the bikes were nowhere near campus, often discarded in front of residential areas, the Manhattan Public Library and Manhattan Town Center.

This issue has not gone unnoticed by the people responsible for the Green Apple Bikes program.

“For the bikes in most need of repair, people will text us using the phone number on all of our bike frames,” said Jillian Algiere, director of the Green Apple Bikes program.

Once returned to the repair shop, the bicycles are fixed by a volunteer mechanic crew. More difficult repairs are turned over to a local bike shop, Brew Brothers Hops and Sprockets.

Green Apple Bikes’ volunteer force also patrols around the Manhattan area doing what Algiere said they refer to as “roundup,” checking the bicycles and determining whether they need to be brought in for tune-ups or repairs.

Despite the issues the Green Apple Bikes program faces, it still provides a service unique to Manhattan.

Algiere said the Green Apple Bikes are the brainchild of Ward Morgan, local Manhattan business owner and CEO of CivicPlus, a government website design company.

“When [Morgan] was on vacation in New York City, he saw Citi Bike, and he thought it would be a great thing to bring to Manhattan, Kansas,” Algiere said.

Like Green Apple Bikes, Citi Bike provides a “public bicycle sharing system” for citizens of New York City and Jersey City.

However, there’s a key difference between the bicycles of the Little and Big Apples. Unlike Citi Bike, which charges $12 daily or $163 a year for access to its shared bikes, Green Apple Bikes are available for free public use, providing a non-profit, volunteer-run bike sharing service.

Unfortunately, some individuals choose to abuse this service, using the bikes past the four-hour limit by hoarding or hiding them for themselves.

While this unique characteristic of the Green Apple Bikes may have put more weight on the honor system, the program has a plan to encourage better bicycle renting etiquette.

“We’re learning as we grow, and what we’re hoping to see as we order more bikes is that you can have more dependability on finding a bike,” Algiere said. “The more bikes we put out there, the more faith people will have in finding one, and the less hoarding there will be.”

Those interested in finding out more about the Green Apple Bikes, locations of bicycle stations and opportunities regarding volunteering and sponsorship can visit GreenAppleBikes.com.

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  • richardlayman

    It would be better for the university to set up a system to provide bikes + lock and helmet to students on a semester by semester (or quarter by quarter) basis. Some universities do this for no charge per term, while others charge a small fee around $25. They also maintain the bikes through an on campus bike repair shop which is part of transportation demand management planning. That would close access to non-students, but it would increase the trust factor significantly. But they would be “assigned” bikes, not shared bikes, and the student would be responsible for properly locking and securing the bike.