Totally Cyc'd Out

Although cars seem to be the main mode of transportation in Los Angeles, morning traffic and clogged parking structures leave many looking for less stressful alternatives. With this in mind, SMC has made a new partnership to make one of these alternatives easier than ever for commuting students.

Bikerowave, a not-for-profit community center for cycling enthusiasts, has partnered with SMC in offering free stand time to all students who have paid for an Associated Students membership.

The organization offers bicycle repair stands for solitary use, as well as one-on-one training regarding the repair and use of bicycles for cyclists of all skill sets.

To qualify, SMC students must have an Associated Students sticker on their identification card. Presenting it at the store grants students unlimited access to all the resources they would need to repair or maintain their bike. The only cost to the student is for replacement parts, but only if they are needed.

The services offered there are obviously not limited to only SMC students. Anyone is welcome to walk in and, for a fee of seven dollars per hour, use a bicycle stand to repair and improve their bikes. Since the intent is not to solely serve advanced bikers but to help any who have any interest in it, volunteers are eager and available to teach anything bike related, from replacing parts to safety lessons.

Bikerowave looks more like a basement recreation room than a not-for-profit organization. Bicycles and parts are everywhere, even the ceiling.

Near the entrance of the shop, a well-used lounge area with two couches, a table, and a stereo is nearly always crammed with bike enthusiasts relaxing and chatting. Bits of graffiti and artwork can be seen all over walls and furniture.

But for what relaxed atmosphere it may have, Bikerowave also carries an attitude that is serious about its intentions.

The workroom buzzes with action as cyclists tweak, crank and pull their bikes, from restoring vintage cycles to repairing a popped tire. Enthusiastic volunteers offer their help at the mere sight of a defeated attempt, encouraging beginners to practice what they are learning.

The organization is also focused on advocating bicycles as a practical option in transportation on a larger scale. Kwang Paik, a bicycle mechanic by trade, is one of the many that volunteers his time after work to Bikerowave.

"I feel that the more knowledge people have about bikes will move more people to ride them over cars," he said.

This message has certainly been heard by students utilizing the program. A quick look at this semester's numbers shows the strong reception it has received.

The contract between SMC and Bikerowave set aside 182 hours of stand time specifically for students. As of Oct. 2, 98 of those hours have already been used.

"We're going through hours faster than we anticipated," said Alex Thompson, founder and budget treasurer of Bikerowave.

The 182 hours allotted was roughly calculated by predicting that participating SMC students would come by the shop for about an hour each day. However, the numbers have shown that more students have been utilizing the service than anticipated.

Thompson plans to accommodate for this, saying if the hours run out he would be open to negotiating more time if SMC agrees to compensate accordingly.

Thompson has seen a lot of growth since he founded Bikerowave in December of 2006.

Being involved with social biking groups such as Critical Mass, Thompson saw the need for a biking community center on the west side of Los Angeles.

After its opening, the community responded well and designated it as a starting point for group rides and socializing. Bikerowave was also able to move to a new location on Venice Boulevard that is nearly three times the size of its original building.

SMC's Bike Club initiated the program. In the spring semester of 2009, the club decided to get the college involved with Bikerowave. Working together with former AS Sustainability Coordinator Wendy Hermosillo, the students formed a plan in connection with Bikerowave to extend free services to students. It was made official on June 22.

Justine Rembac, member of SMC's Bike Club during that time, thinks students should take advantage of the system, especially since new security has been added to bike lock-up areas on campus.

"I'm so happy they replaced the lock system so people are not getting bikes stolen," she said. She hopes that this will encourage more students to opt for bicycling.

Thompson is confident that the program will continue into the future. "This has kind of been a first date for us," said Thompson regarding the future of SMC's program. "We'll see if it works out and then go from there, but things look really good for now."