While the U-Pass takes some of the strain off commuter wallets, it also renders students dependent on the sometimes irregular, always cumbersome Mississauga transit service.
A healthier, greener alternative to the morning drive or bus ride is the bicycle. And at the St. George campus, Bikechain strives to make this approach accessible.
Supported by student levies, donations, and enthusiastic volunteers, Bikechain is a non-profit organization based in the basement of the International Student Centre downtown. It began during the 2004-2005 school year under the initiative to further develop the sustainable transportation of the downtown campus.
Bikechains mission is to increase awareness on campus biking, assist bicyclists in mechanical maintenance, and lobby for improving cyclist-friendly infrastructure around the St. George campus. This January, the city of Toronto awarded Bikechain the Best Overall Bicycle Friendly Business Award. The award is given to businesses that demonstrate leadership in encouraging biking throughout their workplace.
Sustainable transportation inside and outside of campus is the goal of the organization and others like it. By offering rental bikes, Allyson, Amster ,coordinator of Bikechain, hopes that the organization will show students the ease of alternative transportation, and cause them to carry this lesson outside of University grounds and into the future.
Students who use the excuseof not having themoney to buy a bicycle are out of luck. Bikechain now loans bikes for free to UofT students for two business days. Only a twentyfive dollar cash deposit is required, and the T-card must be shown along with another form of identification.
The bikes are one speed, bright yellow, and come with a basket for carrying books. They are easily visible outside the IRC. Helmets and other safety equipment are not provided, although there are plans underway to change this in the near future. For student cyclists whose bike needs repair, Bikechain once again provides the answer: free repair service. Also for the future, Bikechain aims to increase its fleet of rental bikes, and equip the bikes with lights for safer night travel.
The staff at Bikechain is a mix of volunteers and mechanics who use professional-grade tools to bring bikes up to speed — pun not intended. A shop also provides inexpensive small bike parts such as brake pads and chains.
Bikechain also hosts a series of free seminars aimed at informing students of bike mechanics and simple repairs. A wheel-building lecture was held on January 28, and starting March 11, a seminar series will cover brake and gear repair, accident prevention, and basic maintenance. On February 5 at St. George, students will be able to enjoy the Bikechain movie night, which features free popcorn and two bicycle-related films.
Students interested in volunteering at Bikechain may apply for positions in public relations, mechanics, advocacy, and more. Amster describes the current volunteers enthusiasm as fantastic and adds that many people who use the service become volunteers.
More details can be found at bikechain.utoronto.ca, or at the downtown office. Just dont take a car to get there.