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Campus Bikes, to be continued

The Campus Bikes workshop located in Clark Pit. Photo by Mary Zheng.

In the basement of Clark Residence Hall is a former dorm room now that holds a variety of tools, bike parts and, during the winter, the fleet of Campus Bikes. The bikes are maintained by four bike custodians: Arthur Richardson ’14, Leland Nordin ’16, Dana Sly ’15 and Summer Wilke ’15.

These students are employed to work for one to three hours a week maintaining the bikes, as well as buying parts and, as of late, representing the Campus Bikes program to lobby for funding to be continued. SGA voted on the issue on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at Campus Council to change Campus Bikes’ funding from a permanent line in the SGA budget to being the same as any other student group that would need to renew their budget every semester.

All of the student employees enjoy working with the bikes and believe the process of maintaining the bikes has a therapeutic element.

“Working here, what’s really nice and is not always seen, is that I really do like working with my hands,” Nordin said. “That’s what Campus Bikes is to me. I don’t think about anything—I just have to figure out these mechanical issues, and I can listen and feel instead of think and write.”

Campus Bikes has been criticized by some campus senators and students as a being a failed program. This raised the question of whether or not Campus Bikes would be worth funding in the future, especially given the limited funds of SGA and the high-demand allocations from many other student groups.

Nordin believes that a large problem with Campus Bikes, and their reputation of being non-functional, was largely due to mistreatment by students who ignored the rules of the program. The group also claims that the bikes undeservedly have a poor reputation on campus.

“I would trust each one of these with my life for a long period of time,” Richardson said with confidence.

The Campus Bikes workshop located in Clark Pit. Photo by Mary Zheng.
The Campus Bikes workshop located in Clark Pit.
Photo by Mary Zheng.


The group also thinks that the one or two bikes that are particularly in need of repair have also led to the degrading reputation of the entire program. However, it has been difficult for the student employees to locate the bikes that need proper repair. In many cases, because of the limited hours these employees are allocated to work, they have had to take their own time to repair bikes when they see them.

“I’ll see a hurt bike out there and I’ll just … come in the night and fix the bike,” Richardson said.

Both Richardson and Sly believe that, while the program is often criticized, it represents a unique part of campus culture.

“One of the reasons I wanted to be involved in the program was I thought it was such a neat thing—we would have this fleet of free bikes for everyone. It just struck me as incredibly kindhearted and something special that Grinnell had that I wanted to be part of,” Sly said.

For Nordin, being involved with the Campus Bikes program was a way of getting in contact with other bike enthusiasts.

“There was no one at Grinnell … that was interested in bikes, that I could really talk to. [Campus Bikes is] somewhere that I could express an interest that I have that I couldn’t use with other friends,” Nordin said.

The group had many ideas of ways that Campus Bikes could be improved. They’ve attempted to reach out to the community more, such as by creating opportunities to teach others the skills that they have learned through repairing the Campus Bikes.

“One of the things I like so much about Campus Bikes is that so much of it is about taking care of and helping sustain things. We have these bikes and they’re in bad shape, but we help take care of them so that people can get where they need to go, and thus are being taken care of,” Sly said.

In response to the Campus Bike budget being in danger of getting cut, Richardson believed that defunding the program would be a waste of resources.

“[We] have a huge investment of money in working bikes here right now, so I think it would be totally useless to terminate the program at this point in its life,” he said.

This Wednesday’s Campus Council ensured that Campus Bikes would keep its budget for the remainder of the semester, ensuring that the bikes will be put out again in the spring. Representatives of Campus Bikes will have to renew their budget if they hope to continue the program.

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    TruthFeb 26, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    Bike program exemplifies the spoiled and irresponsible community that talks self-gov love, but then destroys, degrades, and disrespects the bike program. Enough. Take the bikes away; we don’t appreciate them now, maybe we will once they’re gone.