Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Green Bike Program

Robert Little – San Francisco, CA

Once a week, I slowly walk backwards down the Pitzer service road.  “And you can see all around you, Pitzer students love bikes!” I shout, motioning to the filled bike racks to the left and right.  “Each year, the Green Bike Program raffles off one hundred and fifty used bikes for free - you just show up and grab whichever fits your style!”  The members of the tour usually look surprised right about here.  And they should; 150 working bikes is a tall order coming from a student run organization like the GBP.

When I first started here two years ago, 150 was no joke; early one Sunday morning, I sat with dozens of students on the service road, silently picking out my new favorite bike after another student selected my previous favorite.  I ended up picking third from last, riding a Fiori-Frankenstein bike with one wheel bigger than the other, no breaks, and a fixed gear.  Needless to say, I ended up with the most fashionable bike, if not the most functional.

Fast forward to today, I’m a manager at the GBP and in charge of the bike raffle; however, a lot has changed since I was a participant.  As part of the Gold Student Center renovation, the GBP has moved down south for the year to our old vacated residence hall – Holden – and is in rough shape.  Our tool racks are un-mounted and dilapidated, our supplies mismatched in unlabeled drawers, and our decade old Logitech speakers finally blew out (on the bright every song is a dubstep remix now).

Understandably, the task of organizing a makeshift shop and fixing up a few hundred bikes isn’t a good advertisement tool to recruit and retain GBP workers.  I’d been overlooking this reality until the night before our raffle this past Saturday when only five other workers showed up for our final bike fixing party.  With 13 hours to go before our big show, I walked into the shop where eight bikes were in functioning condition.  Pitzer students aren’t known for their math abilities, but we all knew 8/150 bikes for the next morning’s raffle combined with our average fixing speed of three bikes per person per hour meant we had a long night ahead of us.  It was time to change the music in the shop from Frank Ocean to LCD Soundsystem and get to work (FYI ‘Dance Yrself Clean’ is the GBP anthem).

By the end of the night, we had some thirty-odd bikes ready to raffle.   I’ll skip over how 35 bikes is not quite 150, and instead focus on why I deemed this fraction a personal success.  Of the five workers that showed up Saturday night, four of them had participated on the Pedal to the Pacific orientation adventure (OA).  I’m sure all Pitzer students claim their OA they participated in their first year was the best one, but Saturday night I solidified my superlative claim.  As first years, our “69 sexy mile bike ride” down the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) cultivated not just a love for anything bike related, but fostered the growth of some of the closest friendships I have here at Pitzer.

As our fixing party dwindled and lost three of the volunteers, I found myself dancing and singing along with James Murphy, “Present company…just laugh it off, it's better than it seems.”  Hours passed.  We were sweaty, greasy, and happy.  By the night’s end, only two of my closest friends and I remained, and we had enough functioning, Frankenstein bikes to equip the Pitzer community with.  
I’m not sure what this “Admissions Unpeeled” blog is supposed to look like; it hasn’t been around since I’ve been a student here.  What I can surmise, however, is that it is a space to share not the polished statistics and LEED-certification monologues that make Pitzer look like the best school on earth (disclaimer: it is!)  It’s not a space to say that yes, without fail, 150 free bikes are magically fixed and distributed to the community by the will of a few kooks in their spare time.  What I hope this blog shares are the personal stories that don’t add up nicely in flyers; stories like how I had more fun getting dirty with some OA pals fixing bikes than I did skiing and surfing in the same day (also, awesome).  The reality is that no school lives up to all the statistics it puts forward (which isn’t an inherently bad thing); instead, the people and moments and like these are what make Pitzer an incredible place, and in the words of

LCD Soundsystem, “Present company, makes me want to stay.”

No comments: