Communal bike dilemma

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March 27, 2007

2:09 PM

Many of us remember the good days when one could find a shiny, bright orange, albeit decrepit community bicycle waiting somewhere on campus to ride. They were free of charge and yours whenever you could find one. They were a lot of fun and very useful. Get to class quickly — no problem. Go to the market — easy.

p. Replacing this system after some two years of absence is the new communal bike system. You can now check out a bike from the University Center with great ease whenever there is someone at the info desk. If you don’t return it by 7 a.m. the next day, you will be the proud recipient of a $10 fine. Not returned by the day after? — a $50 fine, as more than a few people I know have found out.

p. Make no mistake, I fully support communal bikes, and I appreciate the efforts of those who have made them possible. However, I am opposed to policies that make riding them a risky and potentially financially devastating endeavor. So, I propose a new two-tiered community bike program.

p. First, extend the rental period of UC communal bikes to 24 hours. This will encourage greater use and ensure that we needn’t wake up before 7 a.m. Second, bring back the orange communal bikes. How? Easy. Every year at the end of spring semester, the campus police seize in the area of 100 bikes that students leave behind. In the fall there is a bike sale, where proceeds go to the police department at $25 per bike. The unsold bikes are thrown into a dumpster, many of them requiring only scant attention to be rideable again.

p. These are our bikes, not the police department’s. The sale should take place as scheduled, but the proceeds should be returned to the Student Assembly and placed in a communal bike fund. All unsold bikes should become communal bikes and be placed around campus for use at will. Proceeds from the bike sale will pay for the maintenance necessary to get them running and to paint them orange.

p. The problem with the old bike system was that people didn’t take care of the bikes. They became unridable, a simple illustration of the tragedy of the commons. Many of you would say that would just happen again. You would be right. Even with efforts to instill proper behavior and respect for bicycles, they would very likely end up with flat tires, missing handlebars and in locations such as streams and trees.

p. However, I suggest we not worry too much about that. There will be a new fleet next year. Let’s suppose the bike sale sells 80 bicycles, or even a conservative estimate of 40. At $25 per bike, that would be $1,000 — more than enough to cover initial maintenance, painting and roundup and disposal of bikes at the end of the year. As to finding and maintaining these bikes, we can simply throw the now-likely-destroyed communal bikes into a dumpster, having given them one more year of use. The beauty of this system is that there is no additional cost to the student body, and there would be bikes for everyone to ride, with a new supply forthcoming every year. At the same time, we would improve and maintain the UC bike check-out system, still allowing for an opportunity to ride a more dependable bicycle that you could lock up when the need arises.

p. __Dan Idziak, a junior at the College, is running for president of the Class of 2008.__

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