Bike Share Program Suffers Major Blow
Major financial sponsor pulls funding for program
Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 13, 2013 12:09
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
This cliché seems to be the motto for some Fargo leaders who are still trying to bring a Bike Share Program to NDSU’s campus. Plans have been in place since last semester to bring in the program that would supply a convenient way of transportation for students and the general public by making bikes easily rentable across Fargo.
However, the program took a hit when Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota—the program’s major sponsor—backed out of its agreement to give key funding for the project. The company cited their higher missions to back programs which would be a help to all of North Dakota and not just the Fargo area.
Because of the cancellation, student government had to back out of the initial plans which had already been voted on and approved before the summer.
“We had some pretty heavy discussions in Student Government last year about this program and we ended up passing initial funding for the student stake and the program last year with the hopes of bringing it to campus this fall,” said Robert Kringler, who was a senator of NDSU Student Government last year and a key supporter for the transportation scheme. “Everything in that bill that we passed was contingent on the program having a primary sponsor that would cover a majority of the startup cost.”
Kringler, currently the Executive Commissioner of Government Relations and Intercollegiate Affairs, said Blue Cross Blue Shield’s change of mind was extremely disheartening for himself as both a Student Government member and as a student.
He is one of many that feel the program would be greatly beneficial for the community of NDSU, as well as the city of Fargo.
“I think it would have a lot of benefits for NDSU and would also help integrate NDSU into the surrounding community,” said Jon Lipp, a former student senator who was also involved in the implementation of the Bike Share Program. “A lot of the people who were pushing it were doing so for environmental reasons, and also convenience.”
Though Blue Cross backed out of a major sponsorship, Kringler said the company still plans on donating financial assistance, only in a lesser amount. Kringler and other members of Student Government are continuously working with other financial leaders in Fargo to come up with the money to fully initiate the program.
“Right now we are in talks with many different companies and individuals within the region looking for that primary sponsor,” Kringler said. “The way it’s looking right now, it probably won’t end up being just one sole company.”
Lipp has seen the work put into the program and is optimistic the plans will amount to something. He agreed the Bike Share Program could not only be a great addition to save time for community members, but also to help conserve the environment as less gas would be used.
“I think it would be a really useful program to start,” he said. “As someone who lived on the south part of campus last year, I know I really would’ve enjoyed being able to hop on a bike and go up to the high rises and grab one going back to the Union.”
However, it will not be easy to get the program back on its feet.
Finding similar backing from another organization like Blue Cross Blue Shield may be difficult. Kringler says the strategy will be to gather enough minor supporters to compensate for one major sponsor.
Though things will be tough, Lipp said students may very well be using community bikes soon enough.
“I would be extremely surprised if this is the last we hear of the Bike Share Program,” he said. “Student Senate put a lot of time and energy working on the program and trying to make it something that would make everyone happy.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is said to have "backed out of its agreement to give key funding" for the student government's bike share program; however, a formal agreement had not been made with the non-profit organization.
According to Andrea Dinneen, public relations manager, communications and public affairs for the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, Fargo, there had been discussions for several months, and although they had expressed interest in some fashions, there had never been any signed agreements.
Dinneen said Blue Cross Blue Shield is still very supportive of the concept, but recently determined it would not be possible to be the sole sponsor at the level requested for only this market. She said the organization is very cognizant of the places and organizations it supports, so it must be very strict with sponsorship funds and policies identified by the members and board.