By Mary-Ellen Davis, News Editor and Keri Luise, Assistant News Editor
Photo by Brendan Felch
Towson students came back to campus to find that the orange SPIN bikes they grew accustomed to last year are gone. In their place, Tigers will find teal electric Gotcha bikes scattered across campus.
“Gotcha’s mission is to empower people by providing convenient and affordable access to sustainable transportation,” said Caroline Passe, the company’s Public Relations Director. “Our collegiate partnership with Towson will help benefit the student community by offering a new mobility option that’s eco-friendly and approachable.”
According to Matthew Palmer, TU’s Director of Media Relations and News, the switch to the new bikes happened as SPIN began to deemphasize the company’s pedal bikes and trend towards electric scooters.
“TU is committed to green initiatives like a bike share program, which encourages alternative options to driving,” Palmer said.
Though there are already some bikes around Towson, the program will officially roll out in October, putting about 100 bikes on campus once it is fully operational, Palmer said. There will be the option to add more bikes if the demand is there.
TU senior Jennifer Gardner sees the new bike share program as having potential to benefit the Towson campus.
“I didn’t even really use the old ones, but hopefully this will be better,” she said. “I feel like there were some issues with the last one just because there were like bikes everywhere. Hopefully it’s a better system this time and it’s not going to be all over.”
When Towson kicked off it’s initial partnership with the SPIN app in the spring of 2018, students and staff could unlock, ride, and relock the dockless bikes for as little as 50 cents per 30-minute trip.
Students, faculty, and staff also had the opportunity to sign up for memberships that would allow them to have unlimited 30-minute rides for $15 per month or $50 a year.
The new Gotcha bikeshare program offers both a monthly pass and pay-as-you-ride options, Passe said.
“Student riders can sign-up for a monthly Tiger Mo-Pass for $6.99, which includes one free hour of ride time each day and an additional $0.10 per minute thereafter,” Passe said. “They can also ride on a pay-as-you-go basis, which costs $2 to unlock and $0.10 per minute.”
The new Gotcha bikes are also GPS enabled, and can be accessed through the app available in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
“Riders can find bike locations compared with their own via the Gotcha app,” Palmer said.
Docking stations for the bikes will be spread across campus and marked with blue Gotcha Signs, Palmer added.
“I do see a lot more by the dorms which is cool,” said freshman Sophie Morton. “I think [bike share] can be very useful because if you’re living in West Village and you’re trying to get to the Center for the Arts it’ll get you there a lot faster than walking 20 minutes.”
According to Sean Welsh, Towson’s Associate Vice President of Communications and Media Relations, the Gotcha app shows riding area boundaries that students can stay in.
“The Gotcha management system can also see if a bike is outside of the approved riding area,” Welsh said. “If so, they will notify the rider to bring the bike back.”
Bikes left outside the designated riding area around campus will be retrieved by a team from Gotcha.
“Bikes are monitored via a management system by both the company at TU’s Office of Parking & Transportation,” Palmer said. “The management system relays usage data to optimize locations of bikes.”
For Gotcha, it isn’t just about putting bikes on campus, but making biking into something bigger.
“We want to make biking part of these students’ lives—for practical, everyday use to and from class, but also for recreation,” said Sean Flood, CEO and founder of Gotcha. “We hope this bike share program makes an impact on campus by helping improve campus parking and traffic congestion.”