Cooperative cycling

This week cyclists who visit the Bike Co-op’s booth in the Urban Center Plaza can get tips from the visiting sponsors, enter raffles and get free treats. But it is thanks to people who drive to PSU that student cyclists have a growing resource in the Bike Co-op.

Bike to PSU Week, happening through Friday this week, is the part of the Bike Co-op’s outreach to new cyclists, enticing them to commute by bike with prize drawings, coffee and cherry almond Clif bars.

Since opening its doors Fall Term, the teeniest bike shop known to Portland has served as a cheap, accessible and friendly place for students, faculty and staff to buy parts, use tools and ask for cycling advice.

But the $10 annual membership dues couldn’t cover the co-op’s electricity bill, much less pay for the labor of the two employees.

The Office of Transportation and Parking allocates profit from parking permits to subsidize other modes of transportation, such as discounting TriMet’s Flexpass.

Benefiting cyclists came later, said OTP employee and longtime alternative transportation advocate Eben Saling.

Where it is

The PSU Bike Co-op is located on the ground floor of the University Services Building parking garage, on Southwest Harrison Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue.

“It’s the people who drive and pay to park that fund the co-op,” Co-op Manager Ian Stude said. “As much as I can’t wait to turn them into cyclists, they’re my bread and butter.”

“At a certain point I talked to my boss and said listen, we need to just do this. We don’t do anything to subsidize cyclists,” Saling said.

According to Stude, starting small is good.

“They’ve allowed us to move in small steps. The college, and myself included, has never run a bike shop before. There’s some trial and error, there’s a learning curve. I think there’s work to do in how we serve PSU,” he said.

Bike to PSU Week
Stop by the booth in the Urban Center Plaza to enter drawings and get breakfast goodies 7:30 – 11 a.m.

Meet the Cycling Club and learn about recreational group rides and races at PSU.

Meet Bicycle Transportation Alliance members. Join up with the Cycling Club at 5:30 p.m. in front of Millar Library for what members call “a casual ride.”

Get free bike maps from the city of Portland’s Transportation Options program. Attend the mixer and swap meet at Food For Thought Cafe at 5:30 p.m.

Future developments may include leaning more heavily on co-op members to host workshops and volunteer their time.

“By being small and non-threatening, and limited in scope, we get invited into the neighborhood” by other bike shops, he said. “We’ve had a lot of good will from people who are avid cyclists and community members.”

Gaining over 90 members since it opened fall term, the co-op has grown but not exploded.

“We haven’t been able to publicize it as much as we’d like,” Saling said. “[Stude] is just so busy fixing bikes down there.”

“We’re already speculating as to how we will grow, because we know we will. That’s a given,” Stude said. “I’m a firm believer in creating demand. I would like to know for sure that we’ve outgrown this space before we expand.”

One of Stude’s goals is to make cycling accessible to novice riders.

“We knew the first people that would find the co-op and put it to good use would be avid cyclists. Our larger goal is to reach people and encourage them to ride to school when they normally wouldn’t, or ride in weather that’s not as nice.”

This translates into a user-friendly workshop. Stude has been known to go out of his way to help users feel capable.

“The thing about bike shops is they can easily start to resemble comic book shops,” Stude said. “It’s very easy to lose focus on how to involve people.”

“I want it to be a resource that empowers people so they get to see as a very viable method of transportation.”