Bike Co-op in twelfth year of repair service

by Alexandra Mack

Bike Co-op Images

With lube, spoke wrenches, and tire irons in hand, mechanics at the Oberlin Bike co-op have been fixing students' bikes for almost 12 years.

According to Andrew Schuman (OC'93), the Bike Co-op was founded in 1986 by Seaghan Coleman, a student here in 1989, and others.

Schuman said the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association (OSCA) loaned the co-op several thousand dollars, enabling them to start the co-op behind Fuller house on West College St. In 1989, the co-op was moved to the basement of Keep and has remained there.

"At that time the co-op began selling new parts for bikes obtained from wholesalers. I became involved in 1990 as a freshman," he said.

Even though the Bike Co-op is doing well now and has approximately 100 members every year, it still sees its ups and downs. This year between 150 and 300 bikes being saved to start a Yellow Bike Program downtown were sold as scrap and melted down, Bike Co-op president senior Mike Kabakoff said.

The bikes that were melted down were part of a program designed to provide students and community members with alternative transportation. Some main goals of this project were to encourage cooperation between the town and the college as well as reduce the use of automobiles.

Kabakoff said the department of security was in charge of keeping track of the bikes. Security was responsible for saving up all the bikes that had been confiscated. Directory of Safety and Security Keith James said there was not enough room to keep them all.

Members and volunteers at the Bike Co-op were heartbroken by this loss. Kabakoff said, "Those bikes, even if none of the individual bikes worked, had enormous potential. That was a huge loss for the Bike Co-op. The Bike Co-op was never informed."

Despite this set-back, the Bike Co-op is flourishing this year. Kabakoff said there has been a great number of members and involvement. "We have had well over 100 members this year, and I'm sure we've helped many more than that," he said.

Before he left Oberlin in 1997, Schuman applied for a grant from the Nord Family Foundation for $86,000 so that he could move the co-op downtown. This, he said, would make it more accessible to the community. The Bike Co-op did not receive the grant and remained in the basement of Keep.

Schuman values the philosophy of the Bike Co-op and the sense of community among the staff. He said, "I insisted on regular meetings so that the volunteers would have a sense of community. The co-op has never paid its staff or repaired bikes for money. The philosophy was to empower people with the knowledge to fix their bikes on their own."

Many of the volunteer mechanics who work at the Bike Co-op now still hold that same philosophy. Kabakoff said, "It's an organization that definitely does what it's set up to do. It's very educational and very hands-on. I think it's one of the best student organizations on campus."

Another mechanic, sophomore Matt Clement, enjoys volunteering at the Bike Co-op. "I've always liked riding bikes and I like teaching people how to fix their bikes so they can continue riding them and have as much fun as I do," he said.

The Bike Co-op was set up to encourage students to get their hands dirty and take care of their own transportation. The co-op is always looking for as much student involvement as possible.

"It's doing well, but we need more mechanics," Clement said.

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Copyright © 1998, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 126, Number 23, May 1, 1998

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