Big Red Bikes adds more bikes, two new repair stations

Jackson French

With the aid of the Paula Nye Memorial Education Grant, the Office of Sustainability’s Big Red Bikes program is continuing to grow.

Bowling Green junior Madonna May, coordinator of the WKU bike-lending program that began in 2007, said Big Red Bikes is using the money they received from the grant — more than $10,500 — to repair an increasing number of used bicycles.

May said Big Red Bikes also used the grant money to set up two bike repair stations over the summer. One of them is in Creason lot, while the other is on South Campus.

“We put them both near the Greenway, so that way we could help the community, as well as just on campus,” she said.

The program also ordered more tools and parts for the program’s bike mechanic, Wilmore senior Ben Rogers.

“A lot of it was for tools that we desperately needed to get more bikes out and some of it was to buy more things for the bikes that need repairs,” May said.

Rogers said the new tools and parts have been helpful for him and have made the refurbished bikes safer and more reliable.

“Using our most recent grant, I made a few big part orders, so we’ve got kind of a little Wal-Mart in the basement full of bike parts,” he said. “I have everything I need.”

He said the newer parts and tools have made the process of restoring the bikes faster and easier.

“It saves a lot of time,” Rogers said.

Before the program ordered the new parts, Rogers had to look through Big Red Bikes’ inventory for parts that were still usable.

May said that as a sustainable program, Big Red Bikes is not allowed to purchase new bikes. Instead, the program fixes and re-purposes bikes on campus that have been abandoned.

“The only thing we do buy is just parts and tools to fix them,” Rogers said.

He said the process of fixing and tuning a new bike for the fleet takes roughly two weeks.

“Some of them had broken parts, parts missing, bent wheels, flat tires, broken tubes — everything you could think of that could happen to a bike,” he said. “They live a hard life out there.”

Rogers said some bikes go missing and the fee for failing to return a bike has gone from $50 to $100 this semester.

May said the grant has made it possible for the program to add more bikes to its fleet.

“We were actually able to have a summer fleet this year for summer school students,” she said, adding that it totaled 35 bikes.

She said there is high demand for rental bikes on campus, and her goal is to expand the program’s fleet to include 75 to 100 bikes by next summer.

“Our mechanic is really working on trying to get that many bikes available, and right now I don’t have any bikes because as fast as we get them ready, the students come get them,” she said.

May said the program has been given enough abandoned bikes to meet its goal, but each bike still needs to be repaired before it can be added to the fleet.

“Right now I’d say we’re at 47, 48 — so we’ve still got a little ways to go before we can reach 100,” May said.