Harper College's new bike share program offers many advantages to students and staff

Harper College's new bike share program offers many advantages to students and staff

Palatine's Harper College may just be the first Illinois community college to fund/organize its own bike share program, an initiative extending beyond Harper's 200-acre campus.

Those with Harper email addresses enjoy discounted fees, but anyone within Harper's district boundaries can benefit - residents in parts, if not all, of 23 surrounding suburbs, including Arlington Heights, Barrington, Carpentersville, Inverness, Prospect Heights, Roselle, Schaumburg, and Wheeling.

Launched in July, the one-year pilot uses Koloni, a bike share company and its app.

Dr. Maria Coons, Harper's vice president of Strategic Alliances and Innovation, summarizes the turnkey operation: "Koloni provides and does all the maintenance on the bikes. Their app provides users access to the bikes."

Koloni bikes await Harper College riders near Building D on campus or at the Palatine Metra station. Courtesy of Ralph Banasiak

Users are encouraged to return bikes to Building D's campus rack. Based on an intergovernmental agreement with Palatine, bikes are also available at the Metra station. If they end up elsewhere, Koloni retrieves bikes within Harper's service area at no user charge.

Harper-affiliated users registered in Koloni's app enjoy two hours each day of biking free, $1 per hour afterward. Those without Harper affiliation ride one hour free, then $2 per hour. Anyone paying $15 can ride four hours daily all year.

Bike share is one of three new Harper responses to student transportation issues. Pace recently initiated a new bus route to campus; a ride-share discount program is in development.

"Leaders at Harper were looking for ways to close transportation gaps," said Maria Tambellini, executive assistant to Harper's CIO and Presidential Leadership Academy (PLA) member.

'Bottom up' effort

Tambellini and four PLA members "looked at many options of transportation - Dial-A-Ride, busing, Uber/Lyft. Chelsea Lynn, an avid biker, mentioned campus biking. Ideas started flowing: Parking improvements, path improvements, ride-share bikes. 'People can even ride around campus for exercise.' The idea was born!"

By November 2021, project members solidified their idea, forging a team including Lynn, Tambellini, Frank Trost, Elizabeth Ward and adviser Sean Warren-Crouch, manager of the Harper Promise Scholarship Program.

Vendor research entailed contacting community colleges already in bike share networks. College of Lake County is part of Grayslake Bike Share. McHenry County College participates in Naturally McHenry, a countywide program.

Tambellini recounts numerous tasks: "Selecting Koloni, meeting multiple times to understand options, selecting what we thought would fit best, plus contacting the village of Palatine to obtain buy-in."

As Coons said, "It was very much bottom up."

Coons, responsible for operationalizing the concept, finalized Koloni's contract, arranged Harper financing and contacted Palatine Village Manager Reid Ottesen and Director of Planning and Zoning Ben Vyverberg.

Tambellini's team members also suggested infrastructure improvements to campus facilities staff, like "cut-ins to the bike path, additional bike parking, storage and signage," including a dedicated area inside the parking garage with a fix-it workstation.

Great stress reliever

Koloni also supplies bikes for Lake County's Grayslake program and for McHenry County's BikeMC bike share. Courtesy of Harper College

Early adapters have been positive. Jane Suarez del Real, associate professor of Adult Educational Development, occasionally commutes via Metra.

"I bike around my neighborhood in Chicago, usually every week, using my own bike and Chicago's Divvy."

She appreciates the convenience.

"I get to commute and exercise. I don't have to worry about bringing my bike on Metra."

Pedaling from the station, she used Google maps to route herself to campus.

"I had a nice, quiet ride, avoided busy streets and took a scenic route."

Technical support specialist Benjamin Hughes "used to be an avid biker in Chicago. Since moving to the suburbs/having kids, I'm now an occasional rider."

An hour away in Waukegan, Hughes drives a fuel-efficient car, making it tough to lug his own bike to campus. He uses the bike share over lunch.

"If I have time, I'll make it an exercise and bike about an hour. Most of the time I bike down Roselle Road to some restaurants to bring lunch back. Nice that it has a basket. It's a great stress reliever, and convenient."

Harper student Lorah De Jesus guesses she hasn't biked in five years, but agrees with Hughes.

"My friends and I rode the bikes as a stress reliever."

Taking a work break, they rode all around campus.

"We even discovered a lake and playground we didn't know we had on campus," she said.

She found the Koloni app "pretty easy to use. Returning the bike, it makes you take a picture of the bike once locked in. I like this, ensuring bikes are properly taken care of for the next user."

Andrea Fiebig, director of Adult Educational Development, estimates having ridden the Koloni bikes 15-20 times already.

"It's a real employee benefit for me. I can hop on for a few loops around the beautiful Harper campus before or after work. Besides the physical benefits, it clears my mind and helps me do my job better."

Botanic biking?

An aerial view of a potential bike path connection between two popular trails in the North suburbs along Lake-Cook Road. Courtesy of Lake County Division of Transportation

Connecting two popular North suburban bike trails is the focus of Lake County Division of Transportation's Lake-Cook Bike Path project.

Principal Engineer/Project Manager Matt Emde leads the effort involving potential construction of a multiuse path connecting the Skokie Valley Trail with the North Branch Trail at the Chicago Botanic Garden along Lake-Cook Road, between Highland Park and Northbrook.

LCDOT's Deputy Communications Officer Alex Carr notes "several hundred survey responses gathered already with plenty of good feedback."

The Aug. 8-29 online survey was part of Phase 1 engineering of the project "to create regional connectivity in the trail system and improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians," per the project website.

Missed the survey? Email (attention Matt Emde) or call (847) 377-7400.

• Join the ride. Contact Ralph Banasiak at

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