Gear Shack Launches New Student-Run Bike Share Initiative
The Gear Shack, which loans outdoor equipment from Beloit’s Powerhouse student union and recreation center, launched a new bike share program in October in conjunction with student leaders.
The fleet of bikes is called “Sinnissippi Cruisers” after the Native American Sauk and Fox name for the Rock River. According to Sinnissippi manager Daniela Aponte’21, the project received “15 cool yellow bikes” for students to rent and use for free. Anytime the Powerhouse is open, students and faculty will be able to rent a bike by checking it out from the front desk with their I.D.
Because of the pandemic disruption in the spring semester, Beloit’s Outdoor Rec program was left with some unspent budget dollars, and that’s what started students thinking about the possibility of an independent bike lending program. Student organizers Quin Brunner’21 and Henry Westly’21 connected with alumnus Bob Burns’80 at Trek Bicycles, who donated the bicycles to the college with his wife Jane Paschal Burns’81.
Friends of the late Jim Faragher’70 have also begun to develop a fund in his memory to sustain the program. During his time at Beloit, Faragher competed in amateur bike road races and repaired and sold bicycles from his dorm storeroom. He eventually owned and operated the Zucchini Bike Shop, a longstanding retailer and repair shop in the city of Beloit.
Aponte believes the bike lending program will improve campus sustainability by “reducing our carbon footprint while also promoting more outdoor interactions with all the parks around the city of Beloit.” Both Aponte and Brunner hope the bicycles will improve students’ mobility and access to eco-friendly transportation for things like jobs, grocery shopping, and even voting in the upcoming presidential election.
Brunner says another central point is to recognize that biking, specifically, has a history of racism, sexism, and classism. The program is committed to removing longstanding barriers by providing easy, free access to bikes.
For now, the project will function within COVID-19 guidelines to ensure the safety of students and faculty. All bikes and equipment will be sanitized before and after rental. While students are encouraged to use the “self-care is community care” mindset, Aponte hopes the program “will help more students get out of their rooms and go out with their friends in a socially distanced way.”