Saddle UpGAMBIER, Ohio (September 20, 2011)
The wheels started turning when Bob Brown got his hands on a bicycle discarded by a faculty member.
Brown, part-time associate director of admissions, saw an opportunity in 2008 for bicycling recycling. He refurbished the bike with the idea that it could be used by a student in need. A lottery was arranged for international students, and the bike was won by Sonam Lhaki '12 of Bhutan.
She's still riding that bike. "I'm very grateful," Lhaki said. "It's taking me to classes."
Brown didn't stop there. Determined to salvage bikes abandoned by students and working with the offices of Campus Safety and Housing and Residential Life, Brown is the hub of K-Bikes. K-Bikes is now providing free bikes on loan to many international students and includes a public bike rental program run through the College Bookstore.
"We'd like to get a bike for all the international students who want a bike," Brown said. "These folks very often aren't coming with the funds to buy a bike. This really opens doors for them in terms of transportation. They use them. They appreciate them. They care for them."
Brown started noticing a number of bikes abandoned by students in 2009. Refurbished, the bikes led to another lottery for first-year international students. By last year Brown had accelerated his efforts. He learned that about 40 unclaimed bikes had been stored in the Edwards House basement by the Office of Housing and Residential Life. "I ended up with 70 bikes. We cannibalized the surplus bikes to make the good bikes work."
Another spring harvest this year added to the K-Bikes fleet, which now boasts 57 bikes in working order. The College provided space for work and storage near the Kenyon Athletic Center. Several volunteers stepped up to help with mechanical work. Brown placed 33 bikes with international students, language teaching assistants, and visiting Fulbright scholars. The bikes are returned to K-Bikes when a student graduates or leaves campus.
Marne T. Ausec, director of the Center for Global Engagement, said the bike loans to international students serve as a welcoming gift. "It's a big deal," she said. "These are students who don't have access to cars and, particularly in the first year, don't know people who have cars. Having a bike gives a sense of freedom in some ways but also transportation."
Money generated through the Bookstore bike rental program is channeled back into the purchase of helmets, locks, and replacement parts, Brown said. K-Bikes has benefitted from the support of the Center for Global Engagement, Office of Admissions, and Y-Not Bicycling & Fitness in Mount Vernon.
"I like bikes," Brown said. "I like to ride. I like to service them. It's good for the community. It's healthy. It's sustainable."