U Bike Collective growing, seeing more action

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

The U Bike Collective gets rolling this year with a new building and a slew of projects on the horizon.

Every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m., Bike Collective Director Weston Edwards and former director Jon Wilkey tag team on the Union Patio fixing bikes for free and talking to anyone who will listen about the benefits of cycling and bike commuting.

The Collective has offered free bike repairs and instruction on personal bike maintenance since Spring Semester 2007.

“We’re a community bike shop, all free of charge and all volunteer-run,” Edwards said.

The collective started off this year with 50 signs posted on campus bike racks, which turned out to be unexpectedly effective advertising.

Although a can’t direct correlation can’t be made, Edwards said the bike increase may have to do with rising gas prices.

“All the bike racks are full,” he said. “I think there are more bikes on campus, especially since gas went up. That’s hard to say, but I definitely think we’re seeing more people on bikes and more people who have been interested.”

Edwards said that last year it was typical to have six people who came across the Bike Collective on the Union Patio.

“On Tuesday, we had on the order of 20 people come up (for bike repairs),” Wilkey said. “We’re optimistic about this year.”

Tim Tuttle, a junior in finance, said he hardly drives his car anymore.

“Biking is my only means of transportation,” Tuttle said. “I would like to see more people doing it. I’ve been in too many traffic jams on Foothill to ever want to drive my car to school again. It’s more peaceful for me to bike.”

With the demand for repairs increasing, Edwards hopes that more volunteers will step up to help.

“We had four people this week and 10 more expressed interest in helping,” Edwards said. “Most of people who help have prior experience working on bikes. I worked in a (bicycle) shop.”

Edwards and Wilkey are looking to expand their hours with this year’s addition of a permanent bike shop location, but will need more volunteers to match the hours. As an extension of the Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective, U organizers will use the on-campus shop to offer better services, including recycling bikes, reselling mountain bikes for $50 donations and road bikes for about $100 and stripping them for parts if they can’t be reused.

The Collective will receive the added support from the Bennion Community Service Center this year with their new status as a student-directed program.

Linda Dunn, the Bennion Center’s director for student development and research, is one of the Collective’s most enthusiastic new supporters.

“What I’m excited about is that they will actually have a space on campus,” Dunn said. “They will be able to pool resources for tools, parts and funding and people who don’t know how to get a bike can go get one for free. I’m excited about the visibility.”

The Collective received $5,000 from Clif Bar last year to start a permanent shop on campus, in addition to funds from the Associated Students of the University of Utah and the Bennion Center.

The bike shop will move into the building east of the Fine Arts Museum during the week of Sept. 22, after the “Monet to Picasso” exhibit. The new building, currently not in use, will require repairs and a new sign. The permit for the building is free, but the permit is strictly for one year.

“It took us almost the entire year to get permission (to use the building),” Wilkey said. “It’s a one-year permit. It’s only temporary. Long term, we’re not sure where we’ll be.”

Edwards and Wilkey are also starting on bigger plans for next year, such as a Bicycle Library, a nationwide initiative encouraging more people to stop driving cars and start riding bikes. The collective and Outdoor Recreation Program plan to purchase bikes in conjunction with Commuter Services and Student Health. These bikes will be available for checkout to students for the school year.

“Next year we’re jumping in with both feet,” said Brian Wilkerson, manager for the campus recreation program. “We were just too late for this year, but (the Bike Library) is still a project that we’re excited about and committed to.”

The collective now also provides valet parking every Thursday for the farmers market east of the Pioneer Memorial Theatre in lieu of its normal Thursday maintenance hours. The valet service is free of charge.

Dunn sees the collective as a part of a larger direction that she hopes will take hold of the U campus.

“It’s just an opportunity for more sustainable efforts on campus, an example of trying to be better global citizens,” Dunn said.

The collective posts shop times, bicycle routes, tips on transitioning from car to bike commuting and local cycle events on their Web site, www.ubike.org.

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Lennie Mahler

Tyler Jones, a senior in engineering, unlocks his bike from a rack near the James Fletcher Building after his Tuesday afternoon class. Bikers like Tyler can get free repairs and instructions on bike maintenance from the Bike Collective on campus.