Scott MacPhee of the Campus Bike Centre (Photo: Jacob Morgan)

Winter wheeling among bike centre programs

The Campus Bike Centre at Dalhousie is open year round, offering students and faculty free tune-ups and educational seminars.

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There's no need to put the bike away once the snow falls. The Campus Bike Centre is offering a class on safe riding through the frost and slush covered city streets.

"It's okay to ride when the roads are clear but when it gets icy and snowy, riding a bike is like driving a car," says Scott MacPhee, who founded the centre in 2009 to get people out of their cars.

"When the bad weather comes, slow down and don't take as many chances."

MacPhee started the Bike Centre with Clean Nova Scotia, an environmental organization based in Dartmouth. Since then, MacPhee, who is currently the manager, has seen the centre grow to include roughly 12 core volunteers.

Clean Nova Scotia

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This mural on the wall of the Bike Centre was painted by Zeqirja Rexhepi, a Canadian artist originally from Kosovo (Photo: Jacob Morgan)

At the time of the Bike Centre's inception, MacPhee was the Sustainable Transportation Coordinator for Clean Nova Scotia.

He says the original goal was to make Halifax a more environmentally friendly place to live by providing people on an urban campus with alternative transportation options.

"I worked with Clean Nova Scotia to develop pilot projects of a sustainable nature and to get people out of their cars," says MacPhee. "The gem of all my projects was the Bike Centre."

In March of 2011, the Dalhousie Athletics Department and the Office of Sustainability took over funding of the initiative.

Services offered by the Bike Centre

Today MacPhee runs the Bike Centre located at the Studley Gym across from the Killam Library on University Ave. with the help of volunteers. They provide students and faculty with free regular tune-ups as well as classes on bike mechanics, riding techniques and safety.

"Every term since we opened we do a six-week long bike mechanics class," says MacPhee. "[This year] all the classes were booked."

The Bike Centre recently received $10,000 in funds from the Dalhousie Student Union for their new bike loan program, which consists of nine bikes as well as helmets and locks from Mountain Equipment Co-op. Some of the gear was distributed to various residence halls across campus. Students can sign out the other bikes from the Bike Centre at any time.

According to MacPhee, running the centre costs approximately $5,000 annually and they servince roughly 200 bikes a year for free. At a regular bike shop, the maintenance offered by the Bike Centre could cost anywhere from ten dollars for a flat tire to $100 for repacking wheels and hubs.

Volunteer perspectives

Dylan Hayward, a second year law student at Dalhousie, has been volunteering at the Bike Centre since the beginning of this semester.

"It's been a great opportunity for me to gain additional bike mechanic skills while giving something back to the Dal community," says Hayward, who shares the original environmental ideology on which the Bike Centre was founded.

"Encouraging cycling as an alternative means of transportation reduces the demand for fossil fuels," he says.

Volunteer Daniel Ricard, a PhD student in biology at Dalhousie, has been with the Bike Centre since July.

Ricard is from Quebec and spent time in Vancouver studying at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He says that although Halifax's cycling culture is small compared to Montreal or Vancouver, it is gaining popularity.

Ricard says that bike centres on campuses are "a growing trend at Canadian universities."

Further on down the road

UBC and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario also have successful campus bike spots.

"UBC has a nice program and McMaster has a really nice program. Those are the two big universities that have the golden programs with big space," says MacPhee. "We're hoping to grow into that over the next five to ten years."

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