Campus police collect abandoned bicycles around campus to donate to the Freewheeling Collective. (WESLEY ROBINSON / THE STATESMAN)
Campus police collect abandoned bicycles around campus to donate to the Freewheeling Collective. (WESLEY ROBINSON / THE STATESMAN)

In an effort to help cyclers on campus travel more cost effectively, Freewheel Collective grants students bicycles and offers to help make the necessary repairs that are needed to help get riders back on the road.

The 2002 National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior found that in a nationally representative sample, 5 percent of bicycle trips are made to commute to work or school.  At Stony Brook, that 5 percent would account for over 1,000 students.

According to Freewheel Collective’s website, the group was first founded by a group of activists in a basement in Huntington.

Since then, the group has moved to Stony Brook and has been operating out of club alley in the Student Union basement for the past few years.

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It holds open shop hours once a week, where they help students on campus fix their bikes at a low cost or for free.

There is no selection process or required amount of meetings you have to attend if you’re interested in participating with Freewheel.  All you have to do is show up.

“Our membership is super open.  If you want to come down and hang out, you’re a member,” Jennifer Everhart, a graduate student studying anthropology and Freewheel Collective’s coordinator, said.  “You just have to be fine getting dirty and working with your hands.”

People who come down to the shop vary in bike repair skill.  The shop is supervised by two expert mechanics and is assisted by experienced undergraduate mechanics.

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The members mingle with students throughout the shop, helping them with a range of problems such as flat tires, brakes, chains and more.

“I came in here not knowing how to fix a flat tire, and now I can rebuild a bike from scratch,” Everhart said.  “You just have to be eager to learn and be fine with getting a little dirty.”

Even though the group has its regular members, the club relies on people willing to stick around and help others once they gain a sufficient knowledge and expertise of fixing bikes.

“I think there are people who come down and are intimidated by the idea of helping other people working on their bike because they feel like they don’t know enough,” Matthew Aiello-Lammens, a graduate ecology and evolution student and Freewheeling Collective’s vice president, said.

“We try to emphasize to new mechanics that it’s ok to say ‘I don’t know how to do that,’ but people still have to warm up to that idea,” Aiello-Lammens said.

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In addition to repairs, Freewheel also grants donated and found bicycles throughout the school year.

Former students and community members off campus donate old and used bikes to the program.

But many of the bikes Freewheel procures throughout the year are obtained when the semester ends and bikes are abandoned by students leaving the university.

“People donate bicycles to us sometimes,” Everhart said. “But the campus police are also in partnership with us, they collect the bicycles that people have abandoned around the dorms after people graduate.  Those usually eventually come to us.”

If the bikes are in decent enough shape, they are left in the shop and are available for students to claim.  If they cannot be salvaged, they are scrapped for parts and the frames are sent out to be recycled.

To obtain a bike, there are no forms to fill out or lottery systems; they are made available on a first come, first serve basis, so long as you are willing to put the work necessary into getting it back in running shape.

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“Students can come in and find a bike that fits their needs and they agree to put in the time and effort and labor to actually fix it up, sometimes it takes a week, more often than not it takes six weeks to fix something up,” Everhart said.

Bikes tend to go fast as the spring season is typically the busiest, according to Everhart; roughly 50 students could be walking in and out any given week.

“I know that we are becoming more and more popular amongst undergrads,” Aiello-Lammens said. “There has been a push by the administration to increase on-campus residence and those students are more likely to use bikes on campus then commuting students, even though we have plenty of commuters who come in too.”

Despite the hectic atmosphere the shop sometimes provides, Everhart is proud of the work Freewheel does.

“I can come down here and see at the end of the day that I know helped people, I see people walking off with a bike we helped them fix, and I know that I provided a small service,” Everhart said.

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