Biking is ubiquitous on any college campus. Even at UC Santa Cruz — an uphill climb for any rider — bicycles are an integral part of university life, from commuting to class to mountain biking in upper campus.
The UCSC Bike Library is an organization in its fifth quarter. Founded and run by students, it aims to encourage cycling and serve the biking community on the UCSC campus.
“Our goal is to makes bikes as accessible as possible to all students and faculty,” said Lauren Scott, a fourth-year community studies and environmental studies major from Kresge College and the founder of the UCSC Bike Library.
Each quarter the Bike Library loans out 18 bikes — two were stolen last quarter — for free to any member of the UCSC campus for the entire quarter. In addition to the bikes, renters are given lights, locks, a helmet and a mandatory bike maintenance and safety class.
“We are targeting people [to rent out bikes] that usually wouldn’t be able to afford a bike or can’t ride one,” said Matt Miller, a second-year environmental studies major from College Nine and the UCSC Bike Library’s maintenance coordinator.
The Bike Library is part of the Student Environmental Center, a student-run organization at UCSC. The Library began as part of the center’s campaign to emphasize more efficient transportation for university students. All of the bikes were purchased from a local bike store and assembled by students in a student-taught class called “Culture and Community of the Bicycle,” which has been taught every spring quarter since 2008 and will be taught in spring 2010.
“We are different [from other bike rental programs],” Scott said. “We are totally student-run and it is entirely free for bike renters.”
There are similar bike rental programs at UC Irvine, UC Davis, UC San Diego and UC Berkeley, but bike renters are charged for bikes and the program organizers are supported by the university with staffers and funds.
The spokes have really started turning for the Bike Library. The organization is planning to purchase 10 new bikes in the coming months to expand their outreach on campus and increase awareness of bikes as a sustainable source of transportation.
Currently, the organization has no permanent storage facilities; the bikes are now stored at the Office of Physical Education Recreation and Sport (OPERS) facilities. The group’s next goal is to find a place that can not only store their bikes, but also be used by UCSC bike riders. They hope to purchase on-campus bike lockers capable of protecting bikes from weather damage and theft.
“We are working to get 20 to 21 bike lockers to be used for the Bike Library when school is not in session and for bike commuters during the school year,” Scott said.
Accessibility is key to the Bike Library’s mission. “Renting a bike from us is easy,” maintenance coordinator Miller said while adjusting the brakes on a bike, preparing it to be given to a lucky renter. “Just one page, e-mailed to us, about why you would need a bike this quarter [is all we require].”
The application to rent a bike from the UCSC Bike Library is due Friday, Jan. 15. By the next week, the Bike Library staff expects to be handing out bikes and teaching its maintenance and safety class.
The Library’s success has not only been measured through a growth in its applicants, but also by satisfaction with its bikes. “Requests for bikes have increased over every quarter,” Scott said. “A girl was so happy with her bike last quarter, she bought the exact same model for Christmas.”
For more information or to apply for a free bike rental, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.