Monday, Sept. 18 marked the opening of Occidental College’s Bike Share program in its new location, the Bengal Room, which is located under the Green Bean Coffee Lounge. Previously located in the Berkus Hall parking garage, Bike Share is expanding its accessibility to students with its new location and hours: Monday to Thursday from noon to 5 p.m.
Bike Share is a free bike rental student service. Its members also repair students’ personal bikes, organize group rides and provide educational sessions about bike maintenance.
Bike Share began with a limited number of previously abandoned bikes. As the organization expanded to include its current services in 2010, it operated out of a space in the Berkus Hall parking garage known as “the cage.” The Berkus garage lacked visibility, accessibility and certain necessities for employees such as running water and a bathroom, according to employees Khloe Swanson (senior) and Nicholas Conklin (senior).
“This space is really DIY and represents the way Bike Share started and the process of it becoming a student organization,” Swanson said.
Swanson and Conklin said Bike Share has expanded to include a total of 30 bikes, 10 of which were purchased this past summer using student fees and the ASOC Renewable Energy & Sustainability Fund.
The Bengal Room, situated in the Johnson Student Center (JSC), will be available to students as a space to rent bikes, spend time and study.
“We are more included in the organization of student services. You have the Green Bean right there, and ASOC,” Conklin said.
In previous years, Bike Share employees moved bikes onto the quad on Fridays to rent and played music around their space. Gabriel Watson (senior), manager of Bike Share, observed a positive reaction from the students.
“We noticed a strong sense of community around it [on Fridays],” Watson said.
He encouraged students to spend time in the Bengal Room even if they are not renting bikes.
“We’re totally fine with people hanging out in here, doing homework and having a conversation. That’s something we’re trying to promote,” Watson said.
In the early 2000s, various student services, such as Programming Board, used the Bengal Room for office space. Tamara Himmelstein, assistant dean of students and director of the Office of Student Life (OSL), explained that office space became obsolete when student services transitioned to digital platforms, leaving the Bengal Room’s purpose in question.
The OSL held an informal meeting to hear ideas for a more permanent, multipurpose use of the Bengal Room in November 2016, according to Himmelstein. Bike Share employees and supporters attended the meeting in the hopes of gaining the space for a centralized expansion of the program, Watson said.
“We got everyone from Bike Share plus another 10 people who supported Bike Share to show up to the meeting and we were the only students who came to the meeting because we were like, we want this,” Watson said. “We’ve been fighting hard to get this and we finally did, so that’s exciting.”
After an additional three months of renovations to the Bengal Room during the summer, Bike Share is now officially operating out of its new space. Watson and Swanson also hope to develop a stronger biking culture on campus by using the Bengal Room’s projector and sound system to host bike race watching parties.
Watson said that Bike Share is ready to become a legitimate operation with a permanent and accessible place on campus.
“We have high hopes that [the Bengal Room] will get more of a purpose and more of an identity,” Himmelstein said.