New student-run bike share program to debut on campus in the spring


Photo courtesy of James Jia

Eo team members Drake Weissman, Jake Gutstein and Grace Jaeger (left to right) pose with a prototype bike. Eo plans to launch a pilot program for their bike-share in the spring.

Evan Robinson-Johnson, Assistant Photo Editor

Why own a bike? Bikes break down, bikes are a hassle, bikes get stolen. These are some of the concerns Northwestern startup eo seeks to alleviate with its bike-share program.

The eo team, composed of five undergraduate students, pitched its dockless bike-share model at Improve NU on Sunday, winning second place and $3,500 to support their startup. The team has been working for the past year to develop a system that makes bikes more accessible for University students.

“The ultimate goal of project is to improve Northwestern,” said McCormick junior Jake Gutstein, one of the founding members of the eo team.

Eo designed a custom prototype bike that unlocks with an app and can be picked up and dropped off at any location on campus. In the spring, the team is planning to roll out a pilot program of 40 bikes to test the system and gauge interest. Although it will have to charge for the service, Gutstein said it is taking steps to lower costs as much as possible to make the program accessible for all students.

The University, which is trying to increase bike ridership by 10 percent by 2021, has worked closely with eo to give it legal and professional advice, Gutstein said.

Despite the excitement around the program, Gutstein said faculty have expressed concern about the dockless model. In other locations, bike shares have suffered from a lack of infrastructure, leading to neglected bikes and congested streets. In parts of China, bike shares have led to hundreds of abandoned and broken bikes, which end up in large bike graves.

To address some of these concerns, Gutstein said eo has met with University faculty and Evanston officials to receive input on how to avoid bike abandonment and prioritize safety.

Eo began as a simple idea during an entrepreneurship class, said McCormick junior Drake Weissman, who is also a founding member. He had seen similar programs at other schools but said he wanted a more localized program.

“We wanted something by Northwestern students, for Northwestern students,” Weissman said.

In keeping with the Northwestern theme, eo plans to paint all the bikes an iconic shade of purple.

Each member of the eo team is committed to the project and has a genuine desire to see it succeed, Gutstein said. James Jia, for example, joined the eo team just three weeks ago because he saw a need for the program in his own life.

“I live on South Campus but take a lot of my classes up (North), so I personally would benefit a lot from a program like this,” the McCormick first-year said.

Gutstein said it can be difficult to manage schoolwork while running a startup, but also emphasized the significance of eo in the team members’ lives.

“We’re not going to sacrifice quality of the product just because we have a test coming up,” Gutstein said. “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t believe in it and love it.”

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