Tufts Bikes’ fix-it stand aims to make campus more bike-accessible

The newly installed bicycle repair equipment outside the Mayer Campus Center on the night of Sunday, May 1. Evan Sayles / The Tufts Daily

After several months of research and cost negotiations, a new bike repair stand stationed outside Mayer Campus Center opened to the public last monday, April 18. Tufts Bikes President Claire Stone, a junior, says it has already seen some use.

The stand cost $3864, $2864 of which was paid for by Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate out of the supplementary fund, according to a December 7, 2015 Daily article. The remaining $1000 came in part from the Office for Campus Life and in part from the budget of Tufts Bikes, a student-run bike-share program on campus.

“I think the stand is a positive thing that benefits, or could benefit, almost every single person on this campus,” Stone said. “I think when you look at it like that, and that it’s built to last through harsh winters … there’s just so many good things about it that justify the cost.” 

Stone said that much of the cost went into pouring a new concrete base, on which the stand could be installed, as well as the stand’s actual installation.

Last Friday, April 22, Tufts Bikes hosted an event — aptly titled “What Is That Thing?” on Facebook — which drew not only current bike-using students, but also many curious prospective students because the timing coincided with Jumbo Days, according to Adam Meyer, a senior and member of Tufts Bikes. The event page jokingly describes the stand as a “sleek, chic new hunk of metal.”

There is a bike pump next to the stand, and the stand itself comes equipped with all the tools that are needed to do basic fixes on a bicycle. It is also meant to be durable: all the tools are linked with chains, Meyer noted.

“This is useful for us because it means we don’t have to constantly be walking up and down to Lewis [for repairs on Tufts Bikes,] and now people don’t have to come to us. They can fix their own bikes, which is a lot easier,” Meyer said.

The shop, tucked out of the way beside the Crafts Center in Lewis hall, has worked well enough for Tufts Bikes, and they hold three to four mechanic shifts per week there, according to Stone.

Meyer, like many of Tufts Bikes’ upperclassmen, has been repairing bikes for most of his time on campus.  Typically, he says, newcomers spend their first year learning how to fix bikes and pick up more shifts sophomore year, until they are able to lead their own shifts at the mechanic shop.

Meyer said that the bikes they fix don’t always belong to Tufts Bikes, but rather can be any bike that people bring in.

“You provide the parts and we provide the service,” Meyer said.

The way that these sessions operate is typically with about three mechanics, one of whom is the head mechanic for a shift. The president of Tufts Bikes usually handles the administrative side, while there is also an overall head mechanic for the entire group.

The group also interacts with the administration in interesting ways, since the bike-share program is run through Tisch Library. Students can rent bikes with their Tufts ID from the library’s front desk, and then they can use those bikes for up to eight hours or overnight if their eight hours don’t run out until after the library closes.

Ben Hoffman, a senior and a member of Tufts Bikes, emphasized that these bikes aren’t mountain bikes and that taking them off-road is highly discouraged.

Members urged caution on the road, too: urban biking can be a challenge for many students who aren’t used to it. Hoffman and Meyer both noted that in Massachusetts, bikes are for the most part treated like cars while on the road, as they also have to follow the rules of the road. 

Despite this, members echoed that the communities surrounding Tufts have few designated bike lanes. While Cambridge has laid down many new bike lanes in the past several years, according to Meyer, Somerville and Medford have not done so for the most part.

Somerville is moderately helpful in that many streets have bike markers on the side of the road that tell drivers to watch out for cyclists, but Hoffman, Meyer, and Stone all felt that this was an insufficient precaution.

Honestly, [the bike markers] do just about nothing, other than make cars aware that a bike might one day be there,” Meyer said.

Biking, particularly in an urban environment where there are cars…[carries] a risk. It is a sport where you are traveling at very high speeds on a metal thing which doesn’t balance unless it’s moving, and you’re very vulnerable,” Hoffman said. “Anyone who doesn’t wear a helmet, for instance, is being a fool.”

All three echoed the sentiment about helmets, as well, and agreed that there is at least one other great option for students who want to avoid urban biking: the Minuteman Path, which runs eleven miles from Bedford to Alewife. This is a commuter bike path, which means that there are no cars and few pedestrians on it, making it ideal for cyclists.

“The Minuteman Path is a fan favorite — [it’s] very accessible from Davis Square, and is a nice easy ride,” Hoffman said.