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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Mac Bike: it's all you ever imagined and much more

By Daniel Kerwin

Mac Bike may seem like a simple organization to describe, but even the members have different definitions of what exactly Mac Bike means to them.”We don’t have a mission statement, we don’t have a huge org base, and we’re not modeled after other student orgs like Mac Cares or MPIRG, we’re an informal kind of club,” Mark Stonehill ’09 said. “If Mac Bike were summed up in a phrase it’d be really simple: ‘Ride your bike.'”

Mac Bike is located in the basement of 30 Mac, adjoining both the WMCN radio station and the Mac Weekly office. In this small space, which has been their ‘temporary’ residence since the early 80s, they hold an open workshop on Tuesdays from 5 p.m.-7 p.m., working on bikes that students bring to them and teaching people how to maintain their own bikes.

“Knowing how to fix bikes gets people interested in them,” Mac Bike’s leader Sandy Robson ’08 said. “I’d like to think about them as the future of the Twin Cities.”

While fixing and maintaining bikes are key functions of the org, their influence on campus reaches far beyond their cramped quarters. The organization prides itself on the bike related services it provides the college. Robson is also in charge of the Bike Share program, which gives access to bikes for students, faculty and staff that don’t own one. Mac Bike is also responsible for many of the bike racks on campus, and currently is addressing the chronic problem of bike theft, potentially staging a sale of U-locks to help the cause. However, this still doesn’t give a full picture of what Mac Bike exactly is. To round out its basic functions, Mac Bike also does work in promoting bike advocacy in the greater community.

“What Mac Bike does is reflected in all these events,” Stonehill said. “Bicycle culture isn’t a single entity, it’s not just bikes period.”

The organization is in the process of applying for funding to start a program with the Project for Pride in Living (PPL). The PPL works at giving affordable housing to low-income families in the Twin Cities, and Mac Bike is aiming to give bikes to the residents in the program and form a maintenance service that will hopefully continue into the future.

Mac Bike has also been forming a working relationship with Transit for Living Communities (TLC), last year cooperating with the TLC in the “Building a bike-able city” panel, which discussed the state of the Bike Movement in the United States. The hope is to continue to build a more formal relationship, leading to possible internships in the TLC for Mac Bike members.

“We think of tools as things we use to fix our bikes, but a bike is a tool to transform our society,” Stonehill said.

While Mac Bike has been an official student organization for a number of years, its current state is a result of a revival it got in 2003. Claire Stoscheck ’07 was one of the students who orchestrated the revival. Rather than simply restoring a club, Stoscheck helped make it a place to spark bike culture on campus, laying down the aims of riding, repair and advocacy that the organization still upholds.

Robson and Stonehill were drawn to this culture, as were the 15 or so students that form the core of the organization. There are about 60-70 other students that associate themselves with the club, each with their own reasons and interests.

“I think that the enthusiasm and sense of common good are what makes Mac Bike good for me,” Robson said. “There’s no elitism, it isn’t welcome.”

It’s easy to get involved even if you only have a casual interest in bikes or bike advocacy. Mac Bike is teaming up with Winton Health Services next Saturday, Oct. 20 for a ride to Mounds Park near downtown St. Paul and on Friday, Oct. 19 there will be an all women’s alley-cat ride, something that fulfills Robson’s interests of getting more women on bikes.

“An alley-cat ride is similar to a scavenger hunt done racing on bikes,” Robson said. “I’m attending, and I’m looking for other girls to go along.”

An imminent goal of the organization is to find a larger space than their current closet-sized workshop, a taste of which they had last year with a temporary set-up in George Draper Dayton Hall. They’ve been helped out this year by Jason Tanzman ’06, who is teaching an EXCO class for Mac Bike out of Sibley Bike Depot. Other alumni are still active with the organization; the organization borrowed a taxi-bike from Tanzman for a sevice they offered over family weekend, raising funds for Stoscheck’s “Movement Por un Cambio” bike trip from Santiago, Chile to Quito, Ecuador. Reid Lustig ’06 is also still active with the org.

A few Mac Bikers are considering following Stoscheck’s lead and pursuing future long bike trips themselves. For now they have enough on their hands carrying on the thriving bike culture that Stoscheck and others have left behind.

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