Free wheeling

Stored in a fenced compound on the edge of campus are the rusting carcasses of some 250 bicycles abandoned by students and collected by the university’s Vehicle and Parking Management division.

Most people see only the bent sprockets and broken chains — essentially a pile of junk. But Lauren Earle envisions an opportunity for recycling and bicycle refurbishment, and she’s working to make that happen. The marketing and management senior is in the final semester of a Sustainable Carolina externship with Vehicle and Parking Management that's focused on encouraging alternative transportation on campus.

“I’ve always wanted to work in ways that help the community,” says Earle, a Rhode Island native. “I worked at the Sustainable Carolina garden and was excited to get involved in this project because it’s taking what some people think is useless — broken, abandoned bikes — and turning them into something of value.”

Several of the abandoned bikes deemed to be in the best shape have been selected for repairs at the student-operated Bike Shop on campus. They’ll be refurbished and offered for sale to the campus community for the cost of repairs.

The vast majority of the abandoned bikes are too dilapidated to repair, Earle says, and are suitable only for parts salvage or scrap metal. She is exploring the possibility of the university donating those bikes to the Cola Town Bike Co-op, a nonprofit group that repairs bikes to provide low-cost transportation for those in need.

“There’s a limitation to how many bikes our campus Bike Shop can repair,” Earle says. “It’s run totally by students, and they have limited time to fix these abandoned bikes and do regular bike repairs and maintenance for the USC community.”

Earle is writing a plan to make the annual round-up of abandoned bikes and subsequent repair of the best ones a routine task. Abandoned and unregistered bicycles are typically impounded two weeks after May commencement and held for 120 days for owner reclamation.

In addition to bicycle repairs performed at nominal cost, the campus Bike Shop offers bike rentals, free tune-ups, maintenance clinics and tips on purchasing bikes. The shop is located in the Blatt P.E. Center on Wheat Street.

Efforts at the city level are helping to make roads on and near campus more bike friendly. Foundation Square in the Innovista district includes the city's first bike advance lane, located at the corner of Park and Greene streets. The lane allows bicyclists to pedal just past cars at the stoplight to make themselves more visible to drivers who are turning right. 


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