Self-Service Bicycle Repair Stations Encourage UW Bike Commuters

Made possible by the UW Campus Sustainability Fund.

While biking on campus, UW sophomore Ben Ross went over a curb and popped a tube in his tire. Instead of going home or to a bike shop to do repairs, Ross stopped by a self-repair bicycle station near Kane Hall.

“[The bike service station] was convenient and a good resource to bikers at the UW,” said Ross, who was referred to the maintenance and repair facility by a friend.
 
Last month, bicycle repair stations were installed in five locations on campus. The self-service station, called the Dero Fixit, is equipped with basic maintenance tools such as an air pump, screwdriver, and different types of wrenches. Upper loops on the Dero Fixit allow for the bicycle to be suspended above the ground during repair.
 
The Dero Fixit was made possible by a grant from the UW Campus Sustainability Fund (CSF) and was planned and overseen by UW Commuter Services. The grant from the mandatory student fee program provided about $7,000 for the Dero Fixit equipment, installation, and cost of labor to oversee the project.
 
UW junior Kyle Murphy, who managed the project, said many student commuters use older bicycles, which are both affordable and act as hedges against theft. Consequently, bike breakdowns on campus are common, which is a barrier to biking as a reliable method of commuting.
 
“[The Dero Fixit] helps to create a certainty that if you can get to campus, you can get home, because there are all these resources here to help you,” Murphy said.
 
Murphy, who has been involved in the CSF for two years now, was eager to participate in the bike repair project because of his interests in biking, sustainability, and urban transportation.
 
As the student coordinator of the project, Murphy helped establish criteria for potential repair sites on campus. After receiving approval from stakeholders such as the ASUW Bike Shop and UW Transportation Services, five locations were chosen.
 
The UW Medical Center, Spokane Lane north of Kane Hall, Thurston Lane near Bagley Hall, the IMA, and William Gates Hall received repair stations.
 
Despite the small size of the project, David Amiton, transportation analyst for UW Commuter and Transport Services, explained that the site locations maximize potential to reach a lot of people.
 
“This is a small-scale project, but it sends a really simple message that bikers and bicycling is welcome on campus,” said Amiton, who came up with the idea of the bicycle repair stations.
 
As a bike commuter himself, he said there are quite a few challenges to biking on campus and in the Seattle area.
 
“It’s not overwhelmingly positive or welcoming here,” Amiton said. “The bike lanes [are lacking], it’s dark and wet outside, and covered parking is hard to find. [The repair station] is a small piece of infrastructure, a simple gesture, that takes away a barrier for bikers.”
 
ASUW Bike Shop manager Matthew Fisher appreciates the new aid geared toward those already biking to campus.
 
“It’s a pretty cool service for people who don’t carry their own tools,” Fisher said. “I even have a friend who uses a wheelchair who now uses the air pump [at the stations].”
 
The ASUW Bike Shop, which recently moved from the HUB to Condon Hall, is a space for the UW community to receive bicycle repairs at an affordable cost. Although originally there were concerns that the service stations would impede on the bike shop’s business, Fisher is careful to differentiate the functions of the two resources.
 
“The biggest drawback [of the Dero Fixit] is you need to know how to use these tools, and it’s not helpful if you need specific tools, like if you break your chain,” Fisher said. “There’s more to a bike than a couple of wrenches.”
 
Similarly, UW sophomore Ross was unable to repair the pinch flats on his tire at the station without the necessary spare parts. Even so, he is optimistic about his future use of these new resources.
 
“[The bicycle repair station has] a bike pump, which I will use often,” Ross said. “If I don’t want to go home or to a bike shop, then it’s helpful to have these resources right here on campus.”
 
In general, although members of the biking community like Ross and Murphy describe the UW as a bike-friendly campus, they are eager to see further improvements, such as more covered bike racks, designated bike lanes, and overnight parking.