Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research in collaboration with the City of Houston is examining the possibility of installing B-Cycle stations around campus to make the university an extension of Houston’s bike rental network. The initiative is an offshoot of a joint research project between Kinder and the city to study bicycle user trends with pooled data from Houston, Austin, Fort Worth and Denver. The report is due for release in November.
The B-Cycle project is one of three that Kinder plans to complete by the end of the academic year following a recent partnership with MetroLab, a D.C.-based research consortium of universities and cities around the country. The other two projects include a study of the streetlight system’s impact on traffic accidents and a study of gentrification comparing housing stock inside and outside the loop. According to Kinder Institute Director Bill Fulton, one of the primary aims of these projects is to attract researchers and students to the resources that Rice and Houston have to offer.
“What we want to do is expand that work so that everybody on the Rice campus interested in research knows there is a large pool of data available at the city, which we hope to assemble here at Rice,” Fulton said. “That can be used for research projects that are of interest to the researchers for their own purposes that can also have very practical application the city.”
Fulton said Houston offers unique research opportunities as a diverse, growing city in the American South. He hopes collaborate with cities like Dallas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix, to find solutions for problems unique to urban areas in the sunbelt.
“Houston is a great urban lab,” Fulton said. “We have extreme issues of urban poverty, significant issues about how to provide basic municipal services across this vast city that is not very densely developed.”
Fulton said that while the Institute is providing some limited funding for the current projects, Rice researchers working with the city are looking to identify sources of more substantial funding. The Institute is also reaching out to researchers in a variety of disciplines to collaborate on future projects.
“Rice has such tremendous computer science, civil engineering and hard science capability,” Fulton said. “One of the things that is talked about is how can we apply that to problems of traffic congestion, identifying predictive analytics about where problems are going to pop up in the city.”
Fulton said that while Rice’s involvement with MetroLab is only just beginning, he foresees undergraduates getting involved as the projects expand.