EnviroCo to take on iBike program
In recent years, those without bikes on campus were able to take advantage of iBike, a student-initiated program that began in the fall of 2008. This year the iBike program has been having difficulties operating, due to a lack of definitive management.
The iBike program allowed students to check out one of the 15 College-owned bikes at the information desk in Pulver Pavilion for a 24-hour period. The service was free, and students could check out bikes as often as they liked.
Since its founding in 2008, funding for iBike has come from the Campus Life outdoor education budget. However, Outdoor Programs, which oversees iBike, is currently in transition, as Director Nicole Caruso will be stepping down before the spring semester. Assistant Director of Campus Life Paul Spangle is heading the search for a new director of Outdoor Programs to take up the position by the start of the next semester. Since this transition is scheduled to take place in the middle of this academic year, Campus Life decided not to fill the student position of outdoor education coordinator until the new director arrives. The student coordinator is a leadership position that has been vital to the functioning of the iBike service.
The student outdoor education coordinator position was intended to serve as a point-person for the many outdoor programs and clubs on campus, including Colby Outdoor Orientation Trip (COOT), Iced COOT, the Colby Outing Club (COC), the Mountaineering Club and the bouldering wall. “It made sense to me to have one person who just served as a clearing-house for information on all of those [groups], even though most of those entities have their own freestanding leadership,” Caruso said.
The freestanding student leadership of those groups, including the COOT Coordinating Committee and the COC presidents, for example, is what keeps them going year after year, as with any campus club. When iBike co-founder Judy Merzbach ’11 became the outdoor education coordinator, the coordinating position merged with leadership of iBike. “The year [Merzbach] came in to be the outdoor coordinator [happened to be] the year that we rolled iBike into that position,” Caruso said.
Consequently, the lack of a student outdoor education coordinator this year has left the program without clear student management. “iBike is the only [outdoor program] that doesn’t have this freestanding leadership right now because it was wrapped up in that coordinator [role],” Caruso said. “With this transition phase right now and without a student in the [coordinator] role, who serves as point for all the outdoor programs, there’s not one person to go to on it.”
Since the beginning of the program, its management has been concentrated with the Campus Life office, working by virtue of the cooperation of students and staff in varying roles. The director of Outdoor Programs has managed funding for the program, as well as the maintenance and storage of the bikes. The students running the information desk trained desk attendants in the check-out process to facilitate circulation, with the student outdoor coordinator taking point in overseeing and managing the program.
This year, in the absence of both a student manager of iBike and a student coordinator, iBike is still technically online and running, though there is no one to generally oversee the program and to deal with any issues that arise. Any small glitch may cause the program to go temporarily offline. “[The bikes are] available, absolutely. There are just some glitches with the check-in, check-out system,” Caruso said.
Aside from management issues, maintenance of the bikes themselves has hindered the program’s operation. The bikes go to Mathieu’s Cycle & Fitness store in Oakland for tune-ups at the end of the fall and spring semesters and over the summer, but there is no one to address the minor damages during the year as the bikes become worn-out with frequent use. A student mechanic position was created with the founding of iBike but was also left unfilled this year.
Becky Forgrave ’14 helped the Environmental Coalition (EnviroCo) organize the bike ride to the Common Ground Fair in September. When students contacted the group wishing to borrow bikes, Forgrave and EnviroCo Co-President Renzo Moyano ’14 turned to Paul Spangle to inquire about use of the iBikes. They found the bikes in poor condition.
“They say they have 15 bikes,” Forgrave said. “There are 10 of them on the rack….Three of them are permanently locked to the rack because, of all the 20 keys that we have, none of them fit in the locks….Of the seven bikes we were able to get, six of them...were functional.” Forgrave and Moyano fixed up the bikes as well as they could themselves. “We tweaked some brakes and oiled some chains,” she said.
Celeste Lattanzi ’14, a frequent iBike user, commented that even last year some of the bikes were in poor condition. “One seat was really loose and it would swivel and...[on another] the brakes didn’t work so they wouldn’t lend that one out, but generally I think there were two or three that they couldn’t lend out because they were broken,” she said.
Since the Common Ground Fair bike ride, EnviroCo has been working to see what they can do to get the program running again. EnviroCo member Guillermo Sapaj ’14, who has taken leadership of the movement, has begun talking with Spangle about how to rework the management of the program. “We just want to try and revive it and make it a strong thing at Colby [so that] everyone could have access to a bike if they want to go to town or just get to places [on campus],” Sapaj said.
EnviroCo’s plans are still in the preliminary stages. “It’s one of these programs that I think is going to thrive as much as student ownership puts into it,” Spangle said. As of now, the program remains under the management and budget of Campus Life, but should EnviroCo assume responsibility of iBike, there is the possibility that the budget may be transferred to the club’s concern, relying upon money from the Student Government Association (SGA).
Keeping iBike within Outdoor Programs “in some ways gives it some stability because there’s a secure source of funding within this budget,” Caruso said. “You have the internal administrative support, which is great. But I’m also really kind of in love with this idea of EnviroCo [taking over] because it to me has more of that grassroots feel which I think a program like [iBike] is about. That’s where it started, with the students….I could see it living there,” she said.
“I’d be interested in what the demand is for iBike,” Spangle said. “I’d like to know how many students in a given week are using the bikes, what are they using them for [and if there] is there a need for more bikes.” Caruso, Spangle and EnviroCo all have an interest in raising the iBike program from its current state and possibly expanding it to better accommodate student needs and desires, but their planning has really just begun. Spangle’s hope is to at least get iBike running again as it did in previous years by springtime, after the winter weather has eased.
While iBike is certainly not defunct, the state of the bikes and the instability of the program have discouraged students at present from relying on it as they might have. “I actually got [my own] bike this year because it was unpredictable last year,” Lattanzi said. “I liked using [iBike] to [bike to] mentor…but I ended up having to use my friend’s bike a lot more than I wanted to, so I got a bike this year. But now that my bike tire is flat, it would be nice to have iBike working again.”