- Associated Press - Saturday, May 16, 2015

GALESBURG, Ill. (AP) - The Knox College Bike Shop is not new to campus - it has been around since 2008 - but workers say it is picking up interest especially as weather gets warmer. A wait-list for free bike rentals has begun. Mechanics say the Galesburg community can help shorten the wait-list and be more cycle-friendly to students without cars.

“The reason we only open this service to students is because virtually all of our funding comes from student fees. We don’t even open this up to faculty. It’s an important service and we are trying to make the most of it for those paying into it,” Sustainability Coordinator and Bike Shop Director Froggi Van Riper said. “We have 35 active bikes in rotation now and we hope to get more fixed up as time progresses.”

The original fleet came from a collection of abandoned and unclaimed bikes at the Galesburg Police Department and Knox College Campus Safety headquarters. Some were purchased as well with the shop’s startup funds.

“So far this term we’ve had enough bikes. At least nobody has been on the wait list for more than a week but there are more and more requests each day. I have had waiting lists up to 25 people long before,” Van Riper said.

Community members with old or broken bikes are encouraged to donate them to the Knox Bike Shop by contacting [email protected] Van Riper said she and her colleagues can work out picking up these cycles and will provide all donors with a receipt for tax deduction.

And a broken bike will get fixed.

Back in 2008 the grassroots bike club began meeting with Audio Visual Department Coordinator Todd Smith on campus to learn various bicycle repair skills. At that time students worked mainly outside on good weather days to learn with Smith. All work was volunteer and the fleet was only about a dozen bikes with daily, hourly or weekly rentals.

Now students can borrow bikes for full academic terms at a time with renewal granted on a term-by-term basis.

There are also paid positions. While volunteers can still come in during shop hours to learn the same skills, there are some paid bicycle mechanic positions as well for either 5 or 10 hours per week.

“They are highly coveted positions and I wish I could hire more because so many are interested,” Van Riper said.

She also said that in the coming years she hopes to expand the bike shop’s resources by about double what it is now but that may require a new location with more paid positions. She said it definitely will require more bikes.

For now, the two main student bike mechanics are Xeno Coufal and Simon Schatzberg who both dedicate 10 hours of their week to repairs.

Schatzberg said he has learned a lot in the old jail basement.

“I have messed around with bikes on my own and figured things out. I’ve also been involved in bike club. (With this job) I’ve really been able to refine my skills and fill in a lot of the gaps,” he said.

And his skills are not wasted.

“Sometimes a lot of these bikes are old and so a lot of what we do is patch them together and make it work with scrapping some of them for parts and putting them on others but sometimes that can be difficult,” Schatzberg said.

For all the work, though, he said he finds working in the bike shop a rewarding experience. Schatzberg explained that benefits to students can be short and long-term.

“I think it’s an important thing having access to bikes and giving students access to bikes. . It’s only going to grow from here. That’s a lot of students who don’t need to bring cars to campus. It’s also great recreation and fitness. It’s fun and keeps you in shape,” he said.

Whether they are Knox students or not, bike shop staff said there will be an increased number of bicyclists on the roads as spring weather continues into summer. Van Riper said she encourages bicyclists to be aware that an entire section of the Illinois Driving Code - accessible on the state DMV website - is dedicated to bicycles under “Cycling Rules of the Road.”

“Bicycles are vehicles, too, but they are a much more delicate vehicle. Be patient with cyclists and give room. Do not honk or yell. Be conscious of them as fully legal users of the road,” she said.

In addition, she said that Illinois state law requires cyclists to have a working headlight on after dark and that use of the sidewalk by a cyclist is only permitted for persons under 11 years old.

“Cycling is a sustainable and cost-effective option. I encourage people to support safe cycling especially for those who have no other way to get around,” Van Riper said.

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Source: The (Galesburg) Register-Mail, https://bit.ly/1CPcKt0

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Information from: The Register-Mail, https://www.register-mail.com

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