By Richard Zagrzecki
A few years ago, Avinash Rahurkar bought a bicycle for himself that he could use to get around the University of Houston campus.
Rahurkar, the assistant director of Facilities Management, liked the idea of being able to get in some exercise as he went to different buildings for meetings. Before long, he noticed co-workers and other staff kept coming up and asking him casually about his bike.
“That’s when I started seeing there was a genuine interest in using bicycles on campus among other employees,” he said.
One thing led to another, and by the fall of 2013, the idea of a bike-sharing program for the approximately 600 Facilities Management employees had become a reality. Rahurkar spearheaded the pilot Ride Red project, which includes a fleet of six bicycles stationed at various buildings across campus where Facilities Management staff are housed: the Central Plant, Moody Towers and the bay area in the back of the General Services Building. Another bike is also kept at the E. Cullen building.
The program is one of several initiatives the department pursued in its goal of incorporating more sustainability-related programs.
The bicycles are available for any of the Facilities Management personnel to get around campus. To use one, staff members just sign their name on a checkout form and get the keys to the lock that secures them in place. Helmets are available. Ridership has kept a steady pace, with certain individuals using them more than others. A number of staff members use them three or four times a week.
The purpose of the program is two-fold. Facilities Management wanted to provide an outlet for staff to reap the benefits of the exercise that riding a bicycle provides. In addition, the bikes are a wonderful way for the department to reduce its carbon footprint. For every employee who decides to ride a bike, that’s one less time a golf cart or truck is driven on campus, reducing emissions and saving energy.
“Our objectives were to increase employee wellness and sustainability efforts,” Rahurkar said. “The Ride Red program accomplishes that. We hope even more Facilities Management staff discover its benefits and start taking advantage of it.”
The bikes that are used in the program have solid tires, which means they will never go flat. In addition, the bikes do not have chains. The aluminum frames are rust-proof. The features are meant to lower the amount of time and money needed for maintaining them. A maintenance check is performed on them monthly in the auto shop area at the General Services Building.
“These bikes have qualities that make them very robust, which made them a perfect option for the Ride Red program,” Rahurkar said.
The bikes have baskets for carrying items such as tools and laptops, as well as bags that can be used to keep items securely strapped in and not fall out.
“The whole point of the Ride Red program is to make our staff aware of the health benefits and that there is a healthy alternative option available for getting around campus,” Rahurkar said. “To me, bicycles are the perfect mode of transportation for a college campus like the University of Houston.”