How It Works
ZotWheels stations will be located at four key locations across campus: Langson Library, Science Library, Physical Sciences,
and at the Student Center. Since bikes may not be available at a particular bike station at all times, it is recommended
that you first check the interactive map below for current availability.
UC Irvine's ZotWheels automated bike sharing has arrived!
Transportation and Distribution Services is a leader in alternative transportation solutions, winning awards and accolades from within and outside the university. To add to its sustainability efforts, Parking is bringing ZotWheels, an automated bike sharing system, to the UCI campus.
- Member supported
- Free to use after joining
- Easy to use
- Great exercise
- Centrally located
- Growing, with more stations planned
Transportation and Distribution Services seeks to decrease the carbon footprint by offering affordable, environmentally sustainable, and increasingly accessible forms of transportation. In light of this mission, Parking is excited to bring the first automated self-service bike share program in California, ZotWheels, to the UC system. Almost a pound of tailpipe emissions will be saved for every mile a member rides a bike instead of driving. Bike sharing allows faculty, students, and staff an alternative to driving when making short-distance trips during the work and school day, as well as addressing important issues such as health and environmental sustainability, the future of transportation, and promoting community building on campus. Bike sharing already exists in many European cities, such as Paris and Barcelona. Take our bikes for a short ride around the inner ring, to the park, to a meeting, or to class... ZotWheels are meant to be shared; so rent one, ride it, return it and repeat any time you want to bring a little fun to your day!
The concept to implement a similar automated bike share system to those used in Europe at UC Irvine had an auspicious beginning. In late 2006, Transportation and Distribution Service's Associate Director, Ron Fleming, was shopping at a local mall and rented a stroller for his young daughter from an automated stroller rental system, manufactured by Central Specialties, Ltd. (CSL). The automated stroller system got him thinking about using the same system for bicycles. The owner of the CSL stroller system, Jay Maher, was contacted in spring 2008 and was presented with Parking's vision and specifications for modifying his automated stroller system for use with bicycles. Parking staff met with him in June 2008 to talk about the details of creating an off the shelf bicycle share system. At Parking's request, Mr. Maher contacted the Collegiate Bike Company, a designer and manufacturer of collegiate licensed bicycles to see if their cruiser-style bike would work in the ZotWheels bike share system. It did and a formal partnership began in September 2008 when a contract between UCI and CSL was signed.
Bike Share Systems
Bike sharing is a concept unlike bike rental. Whereas bike rental allows for the rental of a bike for long periods of time, the basis of bike sharing is for a number of people to use the same bike for short one-way trips. Bike sharing hubs or stations are strategically located at high volume destinations to allow for a bike to be rented from one location and ridden, then returned at another. This allows many users to rent and return a bike from any number of designated locations for short one-way trips; therefore, keeping each bike in continuous circulation. Bike sharing complements other forms of transportation, is a vital piece of the sustainable transportation puzzle, and promotes exercise in a fun and innovative way.
Bike share systems are in place around the world. A majority of them are some version of the "white" or "yellow" bike system; a free, easy-to-use design whereby people simply use and return brightly painted bikes to designated areas. In 2001, Parking investigated the purchase of an automated bike system but the technology was not yet in place. Parking instead initiated a yellow bike program for students but, as with most programs of this type, the bicycles were quickly lost or stolen and the program was suspended. Theft is the primary hazard to any bike share program. To reduce the element of theft, tracking technology that links a user to the bicycle they rent must be in place. This automation component is what separates the early bike share programs from the much more successful current programs, such as ZotWheels.
Beginning in late 2007, some European cities partnered with large advertisers to create automated bike share programs using the new renting and tracking technology. Because these systems were linked to a credit card and specific user, the programs have been much more successful. The software is able to track the bikes and charge users incrementally, although the use charges do not cover the program's full costs.
Advertisers JCDecaux and Clear Channel are the largest administrators of these bike-share systems. They own and manage the systems in exchange for advertising rights on the city's outdoor furniture including benches, bus stops, and billboards. These systems, such as Velib in Paris, Bicing in Barcelona, and now SmartBikesDC in Washington DC, cost millions of dollars to operate and have huge numbers of staff to ensure the program runs smoothly. The programs have unique bikes and a well-thought out system of rental and return and have been extremely popular with the public.
ZotWheels Bike Share System
UCI's ZotWheels modeled its own system after the successes of these other programs. The ZotWheels system is run by a main server with software that releases and returns each bike, recognizes each user, and tracks each bike via RFID technology. The ZotWheels program uses preprogrammed membership cards that are assigned to individual users after a completed application has been filled out online. Members must also sign an online waiver of liability form and take an online bicycle safety course. ZotWheels software marries the user's contact information with RFID tracking technology so that a particular bike's check-in and check-out history is known in real-time. The user receives messages throughout the rental period acknowledging their rental and reminding them to return the bike before the three hour period is up. Finally, the user will receive a message that their bike has been checked back in and that the transaction has been completed. The automated aspect of the system ensures accountability by tracking the bike; thus, a better chance it will not be lost, stolen, or severely damaged.
Parking's information technology department and CSL worked closely with a data management company, MilesData, to provide the software for the ZotWheels program and to ensure a seamless blend with Parking's and UCI's computing networks. The first four ZotWheels sites use WiFi technology to connect Parking's server, hardware, and software with MilesData software to maintain a fully integrated ZotWheels system.
The ZotWheels stations are conveniently located around the UCI campus core at Langson Library, Science Library, Physical Sciences, and the Student Center.
Because ZotWheels is part of the UC system, there is no private advertising option as there is with cities and Clear Channel or JCDecaux. ZotWheels is fully funded by Transportation and Distribution Services as part of its sustainability mission of providing multimodal transportation alternatives to mitigate climate change. ZotWheels will be member supported at an annual cost of $40.00. The membership fee will allow unlimited three hour bike usage throughout the year. The only other fee that may be incurred by a user is a $200 charge for a lost, stolen, or severely damaged bike. Parking has accepted the financial responsibility for the manufacture and installation of the ZotWheels systems, as well as all costs related to their upkeep and maintenance. This includes the purchase and maintenance of the bicycles themselves. The small membership fee offsets a fraction of the total system costs sustained by Parking. An expansion of the ZotWheels system is planned. This expansion will include other areas in the campus core, student housing, recreation, University Research Park, and perhaps to local areas of shopping and business.
Other Parties Involved
Central Specialties, Ltd.
CSL was established in 1991, after the purchase of Central Specialties Co. by Jay and Susan Maher. The company manufactures commercial strollers and vending systems for the shopping center and amusement park industries, along with a line of hospitality products for hotels and restaurants.
CSL has over six hundred vending systems in shopping centers throughout the USA, Canada and overseas. In May of 2008, CSL was asked to consider modifying its proven stroller vending systems to handle bicycles. This new automated system has garnered a 2008 award for Innovation and Collaboration from the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation's Business Accelerator Program.
Collegiate Bicycle Company
CBC is a bicycle design and consulting company specializing in sustainable transportation solutions for colleges and universities, and the production of officially licensed college and university bicycles. While working with schools across the country, CBC recognized there was an underserved need at many campuses for innovative options for alternative and sustainable transportation. CBC then teamed up with Central Specialties Ltd. and Miles Data Technologies to develop the premier bike sharing system in the United States.
CBC's goal is to provide a quality, affordable, and enjoyable means of transportation specifically tailored to each college or university community. CBC's bikes, consulting services, and bike share networks are customized to meet each community's needs. CBC is a member of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Fair Labor Association, and the Bikes Belong Coalition. CBC is endorsed by Bicycling Magazine, the industry's leading publication, and every one of our products is officially licensed by the Collegiate Licensing Company and the Licensing Resource Group.
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