An interview with the co-founder of Tufts Bikes

Heller on wheels
By MIKE GOETZMAN  |  May 9, 2011

 interview with Tufts Bikes founder Daniel Heller

While Boston's Hubway program was announced at the end of April to great fanfare, Tufts senior Daniel Heller beat them to the punch with a campus-centric bike-sharing program, Tufts Bikes (tuftsbikes.wordpress.com), which launched on April 1. A few weeks after Tufts Bikes went live, we picked Heller's brain about his pedal-powered program.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE AGAINST CARS?
I have nothing against cars — except for their over-size costs, their impact on the environment, their encouraging of a sedentary lifestyle, their usurpation of taxes to build more roads. . . . For me, it's all about choosing the right form of transportation to fit the situation. I think that for a lot of situations cars are great, but for a lot of other situations bikes are even better.

HOW DID TUFTS BIKES START?
Tufts Bikes started as an idea of a couple of Tufts seniors who had realized that biking was the quickest, easiest, and most fun way to get around Boston, and wanted to bring this realization to the whole Tufts community. We wanted to help students get out of the college bubble and explore the surrounding communities. On a bicycle, you realize how the neighborhoods connect and how easy it is to get wherever you want whenever you want. With Tufts Bikes, we're aiming to promote bike culture and bring visibility to biking as a viable transportation option.

WHERE DID YOU GET THE FUNDS?
We put together a proposal for funding, surveyed the student body to see if there was support for the idea of a bike share, received funding from the Tufts Community Union, and have worked for the past few months to actually get the program up and running. Now there are 30 bikes available for members of the Tufts community to check out free of charge, as well as a full professional-grade bike shop with student mechanics.

WHAT KIND OF BIKES DO YOU HAVE?
Tufts Bikes has a fleet of 30 AfricaBikes made by Kona. They are great, reliable bikes with three speeds, snazzy fenders, and, of course, baskets and bells. Best of all, for every two AfricaBikes purchased, Kona donates one to a person in need in Africa.

WAS IT A CONCERN THAT, DURING MUCH OF THE SCHOOL YEAR, TUFTS' CAMPUS IS COVERED IN ICE AND SNOW?
I lived in Denmark for a few months, and have seen people riding through snow storms that would leave even the most hardened Bostonian inside with a warm cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee. So, while the weather does get bad, bikes can definitely be all-season transportation.

I KNOW YOU'RE A REAL BIKE-SAFETY STICKLER. WHAT'S ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU FEEL EVERYONE SHOULD KEEP IN MIND BEFORE BRAVING BOSTON'S MEAN STREETS?
Eye contact and be predictable! If you make eye contact with drivers and don't do anything stupid like weave in and out of traffic, you will be great. Also, you should wear a helmet and have lights if you are riding at night.

WHAT'S THE GREATEST BIKE SCENE IN FILM HISTORY?
Obviously the scene where ET and his friends hop on bikes and ride into the sky!

  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Tufts University, Tom Menino, hubway,  More more >
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