The University of California Santa Cruz has a Bicycle Lending Library for students. The student run program makes bicycles available for free use to UCSC students.
Students who want to borrow a bike must apply by writing a letter explaining how they'll use the bike. Lendees are responsible for care of the bike and must take classes on bike maintenance and traffic safety.
Out of the original 20 Kona bicycles in the program (15 Kona Dew mountain bikes and Kona Afrika commuter bikes), two have been stolen since the Bike Library program began in the spring of 2008. Bikes are lended out on a quarterly basis.
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Hi Rob; the program I'm most familiar with is the Campus Bike Shop bike rentals at Stanford University, mostly because the head mechanic there is a friend. It's a much larger program than what's available at UCSC and other places. At Stanford, students must pay each semester for the rental bikes. I think this encourages students to take a little better care of the bikes.
Like you observed, I think just leaving them in a rack for anybody to use invites theft and abuse. The Google campus in Mountain View, CA tried something like this -- I've seen their blue bikes all up and down the Peninsula in various states of disrepair.