Bike co-op planning to expand

    Plans are already drawn for a new, expanded Portland State Bicycle Cooperative, which will feature up to 700 square feet of outside caged bicycle storage for co-op members, as well as improved bicycle workspaces and a larger amount of retail products.

    The PSU Bicycle Co-op is a group run through the PSU transportation and parking services office that helps the Portland State community learn more about bicycles, sells spare parts, and provides storage space for bicycles. Dan Zalkow, manager of PSU transportation and parking services, and the co-op manager Ian Stude hope that larger facilities will help more people ride their bikes to campus, instead of driving.

    The current bike co-op at PSU, located on the corner of Southwest Fifth Avenue and Harrison Street, provides approximately 150 square feet of storage space, with a small staff and workspace for repairs and instruction.

    ”In the current state, we do have to turn some people away,” Stude said. “During peak hours we sometimes have to say ‘Come back in an hour,’ or ‘Come back tomorrow.'”

    The new plans for expansion would take out five additional parking spaces adjacent to the co-op’s location, providing a large space for the expansion of the co-op without sacrificing much parking space. “It would be really good to meet all of our demand at peak times,” Stude said.

    According to surveys conducted by the bike co-op, 7 percent of current PSU students ride their bikes to campus, a number that has increased from 4 percent several years ago. “We are definitely hoping to get these numbers up to 10 percent, as a tentative goal,” said Zalkow.

    Zalkow and Stude are looking to expand the bike co-op from its current state to a nearly full-service bike shop, which would still focus on working with students and employees on repairing bikes in an affordable manner. A larger area of workstations for the public to use will be planned for the space, which would also serve as an educational area for those who are new to commuting by bike.

A larger amount of retail space would be added as well, providing bicyclists with commuting supplies such as helmets, lights, bags and raingear. “There would be additional room for storage,” said Stude. “Meaning that there would be more opportunity for products to be stored on-hand, reducing wait times for ordering retail products.”

    The expansion will not focus on bike sales, though some bike rentals will likely be possible for short-term use. “We’re trying to decrease the number of people driving to campus,” Zalkow said. “We’re trying to eliminate reasons why people don’t ride.”

    Among those reasons is the problem presented by bicycle theft. “I think that providing more secure bike parking will, in the long term, encourage more people to bike to campus, because it will be safer,” Stude said. “We’re trying to see what we can do to the available area to make it less comfortable for thieves.”

    The expansion also has goals of making the co-op more attractive to potential users. “A lot of people are not comfortable with asking for help with their bikes,” Zalkow said. “Biking still remains the cheapest and healthiest way to get to PSU.”

    The expansion, according to Zalkow, would activate the current space on the corner of Southwest Fifth Avenue and Harrison Street, which he said would improve the environment for pedestrians and provide easier access to an area that is in the center of a transport hub, with roughly 40,000 pedestrians and students per day walking by it.

    Zalkow and Stude are applying for a grant, though nothing is settled. They are also eligible for $50,000 from TriMet, money that might potentially be spent on bike lockers at light-rail stations.

    ”The rest of the money would come from revenue,” said Zalkow. “We would be a self-support department. Costs may push $600,000, but operating costs would hopefully be paid for with revenue from repairs and retail sales. We’re planning on the bike shop being a break-even operation.”

    The new co-op would be made up of mostly student employees – an estimated two full-time employees, and roughly four to eight student employees. Zalkow and Stude are also planning to do educational workshops.

    Although some have already been held, and have been well received, the pair said they would like to see them on a regular basis. “We want to provide accessibility and education in one area,” said Zalkow.

    The current bicycle co-op is open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Almost everything is sold at wholesale prices, to provide students with affordable commuting gear. The current cost of membership is $15 per year, which provides full service and access to tools, a small amount of secure bike storage, and a limited amount of retail items and supplies.

    ”We are providing a resource that encourages a car-free environment,” Stude said.