ZotWheels bikes
Parking & Transportation Services is offering environmentally friendly, efficient transportation to the campus community. ZotWheels is the first self-service bike-share program in California. Michelle S. Kim / University Communications

Sometimes great ideas are born in unlikely places. The inspiration for ZotWheels, UC Irvine’s new bike-sharing system, came to Ronald Fleming in a Palm Springs-area outlet mall, where the interim director of Parking & Transportation Services had gotten a stroller for his young daughter from a self-serve vending station. It occurred to him: Why couldn’t we do this with bicycles?

Less than two years later, Fleming’s brainstorm has spawned the first automated bike-sharing program in the University of California system. With its launch Friday, Oct. 9, students, faculty and staff will be able to borrow a bicycle with the swipe of a membership card.

“This is designed to reduce car trips around campus,” says Fleming, who also oversees the successful Zipcar vehicle-sharing program. “UCI has always taken the lead in being receptive to innovative, Earth-friendly ideas and alternative transportation.” ZotWheels is expected to save between 20 and 40 metric tons of CO2 per year, depending on program participation.

Fleming’s seed of an idea fell on fertile ground. When he approached Illinois-based stroller vendor Central Specialties Ltd. about it, owner Jay Maher had just returned from a vacation in Paris, where bike sharing is all the rage, so he was enthusiastic. Within months, CSL had adapted its stroller dispensers to fit bikes manufactured by the Collegiate Bicycle Co. The three-speed cruisers sport a basket and UCI colors.

Ports to accommodate 40 bikes are located at Langson Library, the Student Center’s lower lawn area, Physical Sciences and the Science Library. The $40-per-year program is open only to UCI affiliates with a current employee or student identification number. The first 250 subscribers will receive a helmet, safety light, lock and water bottle.

“It’s another innovation from Parking & Transportation Services,” says Wendell Brase, vice chancellor of administrative and business services. “Environmental programs developed and implemented by this team have been recognized numerous times, including, most notably, the Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award and the EPA Region 9 Environmental Achievement Award.”

To sign up, check the latest information on the ZotWheels Web site.