University of Rochester’s Abandoned Bike Program

The University of Rochester recently donated a collection of abandoned bicycles to an organization called R Community Bikes. The University has always removed extremely abandoned bikes from the premises, but started a more formal approach with R Community Bikes about 4 years ago, which has led to the successful Abandoned Bicycle Program. The University of Rochester is proud to have a bike-friendly campus. Sometimes, however, bicycles are neglected and eventually need to be removed. The University of Rochester Horticulture and Grounds Department have always removed extremely old bikes from campus, but when students began reporting a lack of space on campus bicycle racks in 2010, the Grounds Department developed a more formal approach to abandoned bicycle removal.

The Horticulture and Grounds Department looks out for bicycles that are very obviously abandoned throughout campus. Manager of Horticulture and Grounds Dan Schied says, “It is not our intent to go out and take any bike away, but ones that are clearly abandoned we remove.” This includes bikes that have “missing tires, rusted chains, or rotted tires.” In clear situations like these, the Grounds Department puts a note on the bike stating that it will be removed in seven days unless the owner comes to claim it. If the owner does not claim their bike, it is held for three to six months, or until the start of the next academic year. This way, if students were abroad or on a leave of absence they are able to claim their bicycle when they return to campus. Twice a year, an organization called R Community Bikes collects the bicycles for donation.

R Community Bikes’ mission is to provide bicycles to people in need. All bicycles come to them through donation. R Community Bikes sells the few high-end bikes they receive and then repair and donate the remaining bicycles to members of the greater Rochester community. For bicycles that are in particularly bad shape, the vehicle is stripped for parts. This diverts the metal from entering the waste stream. R Community Bikes Director Dan Lill says, “Over the 13 years we’ve been doing this we’ve kept an estimated 150 tons of metal out of landfills.”

The University of Rochester is among R Community Bikes’ top donors. Repurposing old bicycles is sustainable by diverting the materials from the waste stream and creating a new bike for someone else. It also facilitates more people to utilize an extremely environmentally friendly form of transportation, since bicycles produce no carbon emissions like motor vehicles. The Abandoned Bike Program “maintains adequate bike rack space on campus for those who are riding their bikes and it also reuses all the natural materials that can be reused from the bikes that are abandoned, so it is sustainable on two fronts,” Schied says.

Written by Abigail Fagan, class of 2014.

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