Bike program offers Whitman students a lift

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Timon Traub, Whitman College’s staff native speaker in German for the year, paints a bike yellow Friday on Ankeny Field.

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Volunteer coordinator Sara Kleinkopf paints a bike Friday afternoon.

WALLA WALLA — Four weeks into the fall semester, Penrose Library finds itself bustling with Whitman College students hitting the books and checking out a few poorly painted yellow bikes.

“We don’t sand or anything, just spray paint on,” bike loan volunteer coordinator Sara Kleinkopf said.

On Friday, Kleinkopf and four other Whitman volunteers doubled the library’s fleet of five yellow loaner bikes to a total of 10 available for students to check out.

The project is the campus’s version of similar projects in large cities.

The largest is most likely the bike sharing program in Hangzhou, China, with 2,050 bike stations and 51,500 bicycles available in a city with a population of 6.7 million, according to a planetgreen.com article.

Closer to home, Portland started its bike sharing program in the mid-1990s. And in Seattle, a bike-sharing program is expected to begin in mid-2013, as a call for 500 donated bikes was recently made, according to a Seattle Times article.

At Whitman, organizers also would like to increase the number of bikes available for students on a 24-hour check out system. And just like overdue books, fines are incurred for late returns of the yellow bikes.

“We just had to do it for accountability reasons. So that if a bike does get taken, we want to know who took it and because we want the program to be sustainable,” Kleinkopf said.

So far, all the bikes have been returned, and the only problem has been with a couple flat tires.

The bikes generally come from students who abandoned them after leaving campus at the end of the school year.

The bikes were then taken to the campus bike shop for any necessary repairs.

And on Friday afternoon, volunteers gave each bike a quick coat of yellow paint, with a few runny and bare spots.

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