Usually when someone is offering something for free, there is always a catch. With the Free Bike Project, the only catch is that for every free bike rented by a college student for an academic year, its founders donate a bike to someone in need overseas. The Free Bike Project was started by two students at the University of Southern California (USC) in 2011 and has now spread to 21 different campuses across the country. Last year, Free Bike Project started at Arizona State University (ASU) with 10 bikes and is looking to grow the program to the ASU’s downtown campus in Phoenix and to the University of Arizona (UA) in Tucson, Ariz. This fall, Free Bike Project is hoping to expand to 40 to 50 bikes on each campus with the additional 400 bikes it has just received from its sponsors.
The one “catch” is the $149 security deposit, which is for the bike and its lock. Once the academic year is over and if the bike is in good condition, users receive a full refund of the deposit. It is an easy online sign-up process. There is no monthly fee for having the bike, all the students have to do is take at least one picture of himself or herself with the bike, once a month and post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. The more pictures that the students post to his or her social media sites, the more perks he or she will receive from the Free Bike Project. For example, the last couple of perks that were given out to Free Bike Riders were Kanye West concert tickets and 20 to 30 percent off North West Clothing merchandise for a year.
The Free Bike Project is partners with an organization called Bikes for the World. Its mission is to provide better transportation to people living in secluded villages overseas. These programs help children get to and from school easier and quicker than walking and is also making it safer for them. In May 2013, Free Bike Project and Bikes for the World donated 100 bikes to the Philippines. This year, Free Bike Project is hoping to get more riders across the country to be able to donate more bikes to remote villages in Africa.
Currently, the Free Bike Project is only available for students and faculty of college campuses. It is working with sponsors and others to start additional programs for student and staff cyclists who already own bikes. One is a bike valet. The other, is called “Tool Time,” which offers free bike tune ups for students.
“We hope that eventually we can reach out into the community and branch out of college campuses, to be able to include everyone in this program,” says Scott Ferreira, CEO of Free Bike Project. Until then, Free Bike Project wants to encourage as many people as possible to continue riding bikes to live a happy green, healthy lifestyle.