Bicycle co-op on campus provides service to students

By Sarah Harder, Weather Vane staff writer

Co-op location: in the basement of the Bible and Religion house on South College Avenue
Hours: Tuesdays and Fridays from 1:30-5 p.m. and Saturday from 12:30-2:30 p.m.

The Bible and Religion department house on campus has new occupants this year. EMU’s bike co-op has taken up shop in the blue-carpeted basement. Peter Dula, who began the program, got the idea to start a bike co-op from one of his friends at Canadian Mennonite University.

bike co-op in bible basement
The basement of the Bible and Religion house has been turned into a bicycle co-op that offers repair services to students. (Photo by Katie Landis)

Dula brought the idea back to an independent study class he is overseeing this fall. The class is made up of seven members who met several times to talk about the co-op and also work with local Harrisonburg bike activism, promoting programs such as the one-mile challenge.

The one-mile challenge encourages commuter cycling by challenging residents to make all trips less than one mile by bike instead of car. Class member Kaitlin Heatwole, junior, said that biking is "a great way to get around town – cheaper than cars, more fun, and more exercise."

Biking makes sense in the burg

Several places around Harrisonburg are close to campus. Red Front and Food Lion are both just a mile away from campus and downtown is only about a mile and a half. Heatwole points out that biking to get groceries is a great way to "accidentally" exercise while doing something productive.

When asked about cycling being a stereotypically male sport, Heatwole says, "Biking is much more about it being a practical part of transportation. I’ve biked to church, to Red Front, to restaurants downtown, all in jeans and a sweatshirt. Don’t feel like you have to keep up with guys, or with girls who have been biking for a while, going at your own pace is great!"

According to Dula, some of the goals of the EMU co-op are to support students on campus who like to bike, and to encourage the growth of the number of students who bike. Joe Hochstetler, sophomore and one of the students working at the co-op, says that apart from encouraging biking on campus, they hope to create a space where people who want to learn how to fix bikes have a place to do that.

Membership affordable

The co-op currently has 15 members. Membership costs students $10 for a yearlong membership, $20 for life. Faculty lifetime membership is $40. Renting a bike from the program costs $50 but students get $25 back if they return the bike in good condition. The money is used to pay for tools and other supplies such as brake cables and grease.

The co-op volunteers will also teach students how to fix their bikes. Heatwole says, "The biggest thing about biking is that it’s something you feel comfortable doing, and can do it safely. If you drop by the bike co-op, the volunteers would love to talk to you about why they bike, tips for feeling safer on the road with cars, and ways to gradually improve your own biking skills."

More information

The co-op is located in the basement of the Bible and Religion house on South College Avenue. It is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 1:30-5:00 p.m. and Saturday from 12:30-2:30 p.m.