Repairing a bike on the fly

Bike Repair Station

While at the University of South Florida for a training session, Brian Shaw, director of the Business Services Division who oversees Penn Transit and Parking Services, was strolling by a garage, taking note of its layout and signage, when his transportation senses started tingling.

He happened upon a four- to five-foot-tall tube with a collection of tools hanging from it, and a small air pump alongside. The contraption, near a bike corral in the garage, was a bike repair station.

“What a cool idea,” Shaw says. “We could use more programming, more assistance for the Penn bike community. We need something that every single bike person could use at some point, or would like to know it’s there.”

Shaw researched bike repair stations and their cost, and brought the idea back to the Business Services team members, who were on board. Marie Witt, vice president of Business Services, is on the steering committee of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s Bike Sharing Business Plan.

To help fund the project, Shaw and Witt applied for a Green Fund grant through the Green Campus Partnership, and were awarded a grant in April.

Dan Garofalo, director of environmental sustainability at Penn, says the Green Fund Review Board—consisting of students, faculty, and staff—liked Shaw and Witt’s innovative proposal.

“We want to promote biking as a sustainable mode of transportation to campus, and one of the barriers is people need places to do minor repairs,” Garofalo says. “Short of manning a bicycle repair station, this is such a great idea to allow people to do a little DIY repairs on their bikes.”

Initially, two bike repair stations will be installed on campus, one by the bike corral near the Chemistry Building at 34th and Spruce streets, and another at the garage at 34th and Chestnut streets.

Shaw says the bike repair stations are, in fact, part of Business Services’ sustainable transportation initiative. Other than installing bike corrals on campus and putting bike racks on Penn Transit buses, he says the repair stations are the first Business Services project exclusively for the bike community.

The bike repair stations will include tools to change a tire or tube, instruments to adjust the seat, and a self-service air pump.

“I think the best thing about it is it has this mounting bracket on the top that puts the bike at eye level,” Shaw says. “I remember when I was a kid and had to work on my bike, I had to get on the ground and find stuff to prop it up and you’re hoping it doesn’t fall over. It’s a pain. This puts the bike right where you need it.”

The bike repair stations will be in place by the fall. Shaw says if the stations are utilized and respected, they may expand to other campus locations.

Sarah Fisher, Penn’s sustainability strategic planning associate, says the ability to replicate the repair stations in many different campus spots was another reason for awarding the project a Green Fund grant.

Additional projects receiving spring Green Fund grants are GreenVote, a smartphone app designed by three Penn undergraduates, enhancements to the Ben’s Attic website, developed by Purchasing Services, and Green to Go Dining by Hospitality Services and Bon Appétit.

Enacted in 2009, the Green Fund program has funded a total of 49 projects. The Fund seeds innovative ideas from Penn students, faculty, and staff with one-time grants of up to $50,000.

Originally published on May 9, 2013