Mule Rides has taken off at Southern Arkansas University. The bicycle sharing system, introduced earlier this year by SAU President Dr. Trey Berry, offers students the opportunity for free bike rides across campus. Already, more than 8,000 miles have been put on the bikes, roughly the distance between Magnolia, Arkansas, and Juneau, Alaska. 

The bike share system is a way of improving the student experience at SAU by providing better, faster access to classes and activities. Carey Baker, dean of students, said the program has been a hit with students and the general public.
Anyone who downloads the mobile app for iPhone or Android from app.socialbicycles.com can find and reserve a bike. There are 30 bicycles stationed at four hubs across campus. As of mid-August, there were 1,057 active bike users. The app can also be downloaded from https://gotchabike.com/mulerides/.

The Press Release says so far this year, the numbers are impressive. Baker said riders have burned more than 300,000 calories and, by not driving, prevented more than 7,000 pounds of carbon from releasing into the atmosphere. That represents a fuel cost savings of almost $5,000 in six months.

Usage is “off the charts,” Baker said. “We’re very pleased. I think the program is here to stay.”

Dr. Trey Berry, president of SAU, and David Nelson, member of the SAU Board of Trustees, take the bicycles for a ride in February.

The app is free to download, and there is no membership fee. Once a bike has been reserved, the user can then enter a four-digit PIN on a keypad to unlock the bike. Riders may ride for up to two hours for free. After two hours, a small user fee is applied.
Baker said most bikes are checked out after dark. “We see our heaviest usage after 9:00 p.m. It’s cooler out and probably more fun to ride at night.”

Mule Rides offers students another option for getting out of their rooms and engaging in activities. Baker said such programs are emphasized under the Healthy U initiative, which highlights physical and mental health as well as the professional nursing and counseling services available.

Establishing a bike-riding culture at SAU is part of the University’s goal of keeping students engaged. “The more students do outside the classroom, the better they do inside the classroom,” Baker said. “One of the most dangerous things students can do is to isolate themselves. We want them to be aware of our excellent health services and programs.”