Green Bikes helps students save money, environment

Heather Bryant / Sun Star Reporter
April 26, 2011

The snow is finally melting, and skies are clearing. It’s the perfect weather for bicycle riding. For those students who don’t have one, the Green Bikes program has you covered.

On Saturday, April 23, the Green Bikes program began checking out brand new bikes to students at the Earth Fair at the Lola Tilly Commons.

“When we got here at 8:30 a.m., there was a guy who had been camped out since 7,” said Ben Abbott. “He got the first bike.”

Abbott, along with graduate students Michaela Swanson and Lorien Nettleton, wrote the grant proposal for the program last October.

The Review of Infrastructure, Sustainability and Energy Board (RISE) approved funding for the program in January. RISE is responsible for allocating funding from the Student Initiative for Renewable Energy Now (SIREN) fee. The SIREN fee is $20 per semester that was approved by students in the spring of 2009.

“It was amazing to see the willingness to commit to sustainability at UAF,” Abbott said.

The grant requested $14,850 and received $10,000. The money went towards 20 new bikes, tools, helmets, locks, spare parts, a generator, and the salary of the mechanic.

During the event, Abbott was riding a bike hooked up to a generator powering a sound system playing music. The system is made out of automotive components and can power any type of appliance with an AC plug-in.  The system is part of the initiative to raise awareness about alternative sources of power and serves as publicity for the Green Bikes program.

Approximately half of the 20 new bikes were gone in the first hour of the event.

“Once word gets out, we won’t have any bikes left hanging there,” said Frank Olive. Olive has been with Outdoor Adventures for about a year and a half.

Olive spent much of the morning helping students find bikes that fit them right and demonstrating the proper ways to use bike locks. In order to check out a bike, students must have their own helmet or purchase one from Outdoor Adventures. They must also use the bike lock provided with the bike. There is no cost to check out a bike, but students must be prepared to have $250 in collateral by leaving a credit card number or check.

According to Mark Oldmixon, coordinator of Outdoor Adventures, the goal of the program is to give students the option of using a bike instead of buying a car or paying for gas for their car.

Oldmixon became involved in the project when the grant writers came to him about finding a way to run the program.

Having a mechanic on staff was one of Oldmixon’s requirements for the program.

“Bikes are great, but they have lots of moving parts,” Oldmixon said. “A canoe either floats or it doesn’t, but a bike, [if] it has a loose screw, then it gets looser and then going down a hill, the front wheel comes off. It’s dangerous.”

The bikes are checked out for the rest of the semester. They are due back on May 20. During that week, each bike will be checked and maintained, and then lent out again for the remainder of the summer at no cost.

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