I went to get myself a bike the other day from the bike coop. (My old bike was, I am sorry to say, stolen. I don't say this to sully Oberlin's fine reputation. Campus is generally a safe place, but I can't say that stuff doesn't get stolen here.) But as Will mentioned in his last post, a bike is a nice thing to have at Oberlin. It is not, however, all that important to have it on your packing list, because it is possible to rent a bike from the Oberlin bike coop.
So I went to rent a bike. It turns out that the bike coop has been open all summer and doing pretty cool stuff, beyond building a new crop of bicycles for people to rent this coming year.
(Full Disclosure: Many of my good friends are involved in the bike coop. That's cool, but it does not affect my opinion of the bike coop, it just exposes me to it.)
One friend, who has been working at the coop all summer, was telling me about the variety of bike coop activities in which she has participated. They organized a weekly "bike-in" movie in the park in the center of town. During the first week of August, the coop ran a bike camp for eight kids from the area, mostly from the neighborhood. They all built a bike in a week. Fifteen additional kids built bikes with used parts from around the coop and worked for ten hours helping out around the coop.
Another friend was telling me that a few weeks into the semester she wants to organize an orientation ride to introduce new students to the bike coop. The idea is just to get a bunch of people together for a bike ride. It is a lot more like a hike than a tour.
Once the rest of the student body reappears in another couple weeks, the bike coop will be off of its summer schedule and back to its regular routine, which consists of daily shifts from one to four and seven to ten, during which anyone who is a member (and anyone can be a member of this coop, whether they are students, professors, or townspeople) come to work on their bikes. An experienced bike mechanic who helps you to do whatever maintenance work you require runs each shift.
As people become more aware of the consequences of fossil fuel consumption (something that Alice has written about more than once on this blog), it seems inevitable that bicycles will start to fill a greater role in our transportation. The bike coop at Oberlin is a perfect example of how this can happen. It is a community project that promotes environmental responsibility.