COURTESY OF DROPBIKE

Dropbike, a new bike sharing startup, has partnered with the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) to launch a pilot on the UTSG campus. The partnership involves Dropbike identifying ‘havens’ —  existing bike posts and racks marked on its mobile app — around UTSG where bicycles can be rented and returned.

The app allows users 18 years of age and older to find a nearby Dropbike bicycle and receive a code to unlock and rent it. 

The pilot at UTSG, which began on June 15, runs until the end of the summer. “We’re evaluating how it’s going, and we’re constantly sharing our statistics with the UTSU so that we can both get a good sense of [if it is] worth keeping around,” Dropbike CEO Qiming Weng said in an interview with The Varsity. “I’m optimistic that it’s going to work, and if it does, then we’ll be continuing this hopefully for a long, long time.”

Dropbike approached the UTSU in April 2017 regarding a potential partnership. “University of Toronto really popped out at us,” Weng said. “I think this is a really great form of transportation for students, especially because it’s not very affordable to own a car, especially in downtown Toronto.”

In an email to The Varsity, Daman Singh, Vice-President Internal of the UTSU, wrote, “It costs the UTSU no money to help promote this youth-led innovation, and in return, students get access [to] a bike sharing service that costs as low as $1 per hour.” Registration for Dropbike also requires a refundable $49 deposit.

The Toronto-based startup, which is also running a pilot in the city of Kingston, Ontario, currently employs 12 staff members, according to LinkedIn. Amongst them is former UTSU President Jasmine Wong Denike, who serves as Dropbike’s Campus Manager.

According to a Reddit post by Denike’s successor, current UTSU President Mathias Memmel, Denike “was hired after we signed an agreement with Dropbike… and there was no discussion of anyone getting a job.”

In the same post, Memmel wrote, “This isn’t free publicity–Dropbike is providing a service to students (the bikes) and is sponsoring Orientation. If we didn’t accept support from for-profit companies, Orientation wouldn’t happen.”

Dropbike has not finalized the specifics of their involvement with U of T’s frosh orientation, according to Weng. However, he hopes to see Dropbike become “more useful” as more students return to campus for the fall term. Singh did not provide comment on Dropbike’s involvement with orientation.

When asked what inspired him to found Dropbike, Weng cited the “mental hurdle” of buying a new bicycle after his was stolen. During his travels to different countries, Weng was also intrigued by bike sharing cultures that are more heavily present than in Toronto, including “very simple and obvious ideas” in China. “I think when you encounter a simple and obvious idea, it’s probably going to be a good one,” he said.

On Dropbike’s ambitions, Weng said, “We want to make sure that at every step we’re doing something meaningful and actually impacting the community… A couple hundred people have tried Dropbike and it had a meaningful impact on their lives.”

“Dropbike’s pilot project has had an overwhelmingly positive response both on and off campus,” Singh wrote. “We encourage our members to try the service and provide feedback to Dropbike to help them serve students better.” 

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