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Sustainability proponents at Iowa's three public universities have been working for years to develop programs that allow people to rent a bike at one area of campus and drop it off at another.

It appears, however, that a grant from the Iowa Department of Transportation will help the University of Iowa win the race to transform a bike-share proposal into actual gears, pedals and locking docks.

The Iowa City area already has a long-term bicycle rental program in Iowa City Bike Library, as well as rental options primarily for recreational cycling, such as through UI's Touch the Earth Outdoor Rental Center and local bike shops. And last fall, UI became the first university in the state to earn the Bicycle Friendly University designation from the League of American Bicyclists.

The new program would be geared toward short-term rentals, primarily one hour or less, for commuting through the campus and downtown areas.

"It fills a niche that is not being served right now," said Liz Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability. "We know Iowa City has a strong bike culture. We know that the program will be used and supported. We hope that this is only the first phase, so that as many people as possible have access to a bike."

UI learned in mid-January that the Iowa Department of Transportation approved its application for a $135,300 grant to begin a program on campus. The UI group also has received commitment for funding from several local groups.

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