Student cyclists find support at Bike Shop

Rain or shine (let’s be honest, it’s usually rain), students can be seen biking on and around campus. But biking is more than just getting from point A to point B; for many students, it’s a way of life. We got an inside look at the cycling culture on campus from Ben Sample, the Puget Sound Bicycle Program Coordinator.

Who bikes at Puget Sound?

UPS has a wonderfully bike-friendly campus and a large portion of its students choose to use bikes as a primary means of transportation. Most people who bike choose to do so because they live more than a few blocks from campus, but I also know many students who ride from the dorms to their classes just across campus. To my knowledge, there’s no tally of just how many students actually ride their bikes on a consistent basis, but the plentiful bicycle locking stations around campus are almost always near capacity, so I’d say that’s a solid portion of our peers!

Did most people bike before they came to campus, or were they inspired to start once they got here?

Most people I speak to in the shop bought a bike when they arrived on campus. Most of us rode bikes as kids, and some of us were lucky enough to continue riding through high school with friends and family, or for exercise or competition.

I would venture to guess that anyone who knows how to ride a bike has considered having one on campus, but sometimes the up-front cost or the storage of that bike can make it seem like more trouble than it’s worth. However, for those of us who live far enough from campus to make walking a really brutal undertaking, biking is our saving grace for getting to class on time.

What is the bicycling community like at Puget Sound?

The cycling community is still growing at UPS. We have lots of interested parties, and beautiful places to ride, but no real hub of information to go through. There are lots of clubs and teams in the surrounding community, but Puget Sound has yet to establish its own consistent cycling group for the sake of cycling.

What would you suggest, then, to the student who wanted to become involved in cycling?

Getting involved in cycling is as easy as getting on a bike. Even if you don’t have a bike, chances are you know someone who does and would be willing to lend it to you. If you’re looking for a new whip of your own, there are many awesome dealers nearby who can help you out (Tacoma Bike, Defiance Cycles, and Olde Towne Cyclery, to name a few).

If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, Craigslist is always an option as well. There is also the Tacoma Bike Swap, held in the Field House parking lot April 27, in which people from all over Tacoma will be selling, buying and trading bike stuff for cheap. Just remember, you often get what you pay for!

As a word of warning, I would not recommend buying one of the enticingly cheap bikes from Walmart, Target or Kmart. Not only are the parts hard to service, but the salty conditions and torrential rain in the area will render one of these big-box store bikes a heap of rust within a month. If you want any advice on finding a bike, feel free to stop by the Bike Shop and we can help explain the options to you.

Once you have a bike, you’ll probably be looking for someone to ride with. Unless you are just going from point A to B, biking is much more fun with a friend or two.

There once was a thriving Cycling Club team on campus that did road rides and community events, but I don’t know how active it still is. I know there is also a Triathlon Club, which includes cycling for training.

For more relaxed events, the Puget Sound Outdoors club holds seasonal rides to places like The Narrows Bridge, Vashon Island or mountain biking in Banner Forest. Be sure to sign up for their newsletter and express interest in cycling so the leaders know what you want to do!

How well does the University support opportunities for cycling?

I don’t have much experience with other college bike programs, but I do believe we are lucky to have what we do. We have a wonderfully bike-friendly campus thanks to our wide pathways, plentiful locking stations and bike lanes on surrounding streets. Many campuses outlaw bikes and skateboards on pedestrian walkways within school grounds, reducing the interest in bike-commuting. UPS also has the Bike Shop, a student-run non-profit shop that reduces the costs of owning and maintaining a safe bicycle. The shop is located behind Student Development and The Expeditionary, near Kittredge Hall.

What’s the story behind the Bike Shop?

The Bike Shop started as a few self-service tools so students could perform their own flat repairs and brake adjustments. It has since grown into a full-service shop with a volunteer staff eager to help you with most repairs necessary to get your bike back up and running, ensure safety or order upgrade parts.

We have a large stock of parts including brakes, tubes, tires, fenders, locks and lights, as well as an extensive parts catalogue for special orders.

So, if you want to get your bike fixed, learn to fix it yourself, or want to volunteer, come in T/Th 2:00-3:30 p.m., Wed 4:00-6:00pm or email bikeshop@pugetsound.edu.

The Bike Shop is located in the alley behind Kittredge Hall and behind the PSO Expeditionary at 1506 N. Alder St.

What are important rules to remember for being a “smart cyclist” on campus?

Helmets are one of my biggest pet peeves in the campus bike community. Even I have to admit that I didn’t always wear a helmet when I first starting bike commuting in 2010, but I quickly learned that even the shortest trips hold dangers worthy of head protection.

With unpredictable pedestrians, cars, unseen potholes (we have lots of those around here) and slippery wet pavement, helmets are really a necessity during any trip on a bike/skateboard/scooter/unicycle/etc. In addition, Tacoma has an enforced helmet law when riding bicycles and skateboards on city streets.

It seems that  most people who don’t wear helmets think they are unnecessary, find it inconvenient to go out and buy one, or think they will look “dorky.” I personally think there is no reason to risk brain damage for the sake of appearances, and recommend anyone who buys a bike to factor in the cost of a helmet to the total expense.

Other than wearing a helmet, there are a few recommendations I have for anyone who wants to be a smart cyclist:

1. Get some lights. Daylight is short-lived here in the winter and you will inevitably be riding in the dark. Don’t rely on reflectors to get the job done. Buy a white front light and a red rear light (available at the Bike Shop) and BE SEEN.

2. You are a car. At least, that is how the traffic laws think of you. Abide all signs and traffic signals, and use hand signals to signal turns to surrounding motorists to avoid a ticket, or worse, an accident. In a fight between a bike and a car, the car will win every time, so don’t fool yourself into thinking the rules of the road don’t apply to you.

3. Don’t ride on the sidewalk. You will be ticketed. If there is no bike lane, just ride on the right hand side of the street, outside of the 3 foot “door zone” where doors from parked cars can swing open. If the lane is narrow, take the lane and move back to the right as soon as it is safe to do so.

4. Invest in a lock. Bike thieves are crafty and plentiful. Get a good U-bolt-style lock and lock your frame and front wheel to a solid object. Locking stations, thick trees and sign posts work well, fences, railings and trash cans don’t.

Cable locks seem more versatile and are more affordable, but U-bolts are the lowest decent security for a bicycle. Locks are available at the Bike Shop or in the bookstore (but remember what I said about cable locks).

Whether you are looking to sell, upgrade or buy, the Tacoma Bike Swap is a great opportunity to reach out into the community for your used bike search. The Bike Swap will take place on April 27 in the parking lot of the Field House, from 10 a.m-2 p.m.