Mac Bike outgrowing its frame

By Ari Ofsevit

As the air has warmed and the ice disappeared, more and more students have been moseying around St. Paul by bike. And while many students have their own ride, others are using cycles provided by Mac Bike’s bike share program—so many that there is a shortage of available bikes.

“I’ve been running it this whole semester, but the demand really only started in the past couple weeks, when a lot of people have been coming in and wanting bikes,” Dillon Teske ’09 said. He is employed by the Campus Center to administer the program.

Mac Bike, located in the basement of 30 Mac, has come a long way since it was resuscitated two years ago. At that time, Jason Tanzman ’06 and other students submitted a budget, found the keys to the workshop, and have received about $1500 each semester since then.

Students can check bikes out for up to one week. While most students are rather good about turning the bikes in on time, there have been some who have kept the bikes beyond the limit.

While this was not a problem over the winter, with greater demand it has begun to irk the Mac Bike organizers. They currently have twelve bikes in the program, ten of which are in circulation. One has been taken out for repairs, and one bike has been checked out since November.

According to Tanzman, the bike share should be for short-term use. Mac Bike also refurbishes and sells bikes cheaply, and gives the proceeds to Biciaccion, a program in Quito, Ecuador, which plans on creating a bicycle mechanic program for homeless youth.

The club has led drives for bikes, and currently has dozens of bikes which they plan to refurbish and sell.

Each bike costs Mac Bike $50 or more. The bikes are donated or bought very cheaply from the Sibley Bike Depot, but the cost of a helmet and lock add to the cost of the bikes. Maintenance is performed by Teske.

The bike share is funded by Mac Bike, and Teske’s position is funded by the Environmental Studies Department.

To take out a bike, students must go to the info desk in the Campus Center, sign out the bike, and sign a waiver before they are given a key to the bike lock. Helmet use is mandatory, and while Teske says there is no way to enforce this, helmets are included with the bikes.

Students cannot “renew” shared bikes, Teske said, adding that in theory they have to wait another 24 hours before taking out another bike. For students who do not return bikes, Teske recently implemented a system where he e-mails tardy returns after three days, then calls and SPOs a message after a week.

“We hadn’t organized [getting bikes back] much before this spring,” Teske said, as there had not been a shortage. Share bikes have only been available since last fall.

“[The] Campus Center has the power to turn off a [student ID] card … that seems to be an effective threat,” he said. The club could implement late fees, but he said that Mac Bike “didn’t want to be something where people were paying, but we also don’t want people to take advantage of the system,” Teske said.

Teske added that he has recently received complaints about the lack of bikes, and is trying to make this system work, by adding only as many bikes as he can keep in good working order.

Both Teske and Tanzman said the ultimate goal of Mac Bike is bike ownership. “I think bike share is a good program to get people back on bikes,” Tanzman said. “But I think we should have one person on one bike—you develop a relationship with a bike. We want [bike share] to be a gateway towards people getting their own bikes.”

Thus, Mac Bike has shifted its focus to rehabbing donated bikes and selling them at low prices to students.

“We have over 50 bikes donated [and] we want them off of our hands,” Tanzman said. “We might have sliding [price] scale … based on how much people can afford.” The next bike sale will be this afternoon.

Tanzman said that he will likely host Mac Bike in his garage this summer, and hopes that the program will continue to grow next year.