Attending Willamette University without a car can, at times, feel a bit isolating. Areas like downtown Salem and Bush Park are close enough, but the city beyond the edges of campus’ bubble often feel inaccessible, especially to students without personal modes of transportation. For students who are able and interested, riding a bike can be an effective, fun, environmentally-friendly and relatively safe and inexpensive alternative to car travel. This community provides countless resources for students with bikes or those who are interested in taking up the activity.
If you find yourself in Salem without a bike, there are plenty of nearby places to buy or rent one of your own. The Northwest Hub is an excellent resource for all members of the Salem community. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide “bikes for all,” according to its website and a sign on its storefront. At The Northwest Hub, folks can buy new or used bikes, bike parts and accessories from the shop, but it also offers bikes in exchange for volunteer hours. After working eight hours at the shop, volunteers can receive a free bike, lock and lights. To volunteer, apply online at thenorthwesthub.org, and stop into the shop on Broadway St. to schedule your hours. The shop provides repair and tune-up services, as well as classes on bike maintenance. The Northwest Hub also benefits from long-term volunteers and donations of old or used bikes.
Several local for-profit bike shops exist near campus as well. Shops like Scott’s Cycle and Fitness, Santiam Bikes and The Bike Peddler, all independent shops in downtown Salem, offer high-end bikes sales, rentals and maintenance services.
The city of Salem recently introduced Ride Salem, a community bike share program. Bike rental stations are spread throughout downtown including one on campus, on the corner of Ferry and Church streets near Starbucks. To rent a bike, download the Zagster app or text ‘SMS’ to (202) 999-3924. Bikes cost three dollars an hour, but students have the opportunity to pay $15 a year to pay for rides shorter than one hour (rides longer than an hour would then cost two dollars per hour).
Willamette’s Outdoor Program (ODP) is currently offering a raffle for bike rentals. According to ODP co-coordinator Ellis Cobb (‘20), winners of the raffle will have the opportunity to rent a bike for one semester for $20. To add your name to the raffle, head to the ODP desk in Montag Center. Drawings will happen on Monday, Sept. 9. ODP also runs the Bike Shop, a student-run program that offers maintenance services to the WU community.
If you have a bike, be sure to register it with Campus Safety. In the case that your bike is stolen, Campus Safety will have a log that includes the bike’s serial number and your contact information. Bike theft, as well as the theft of bike parts and wheels, is rampant on Willamette’s campus. The best way to prevent bike theft is to properly lock your bike. Certain locks like cable and chain locks are relatively easy to cut through, so using a metal U-lock or two is a safer option. Campus Safety provides free U-locks to students with bikes. If you live on campus and want to avoid storing your bike outside, residence halls on campus all have their own areas designated for bike storage.Residents can store bikes in these areas fro free, and can ask their Residence Advisors for more information about their buildings.
Bikes are a sustainable alternative to car transportation. For some students who live off-campus, commuting to campus by bike not only reduces carbon emissions, but it will also reduce congestion in campus’ packed parking lots and may even save you some cash you might otherwise spend on a parking permit and gas.
When biking through town, be aware that several streets do not allocate space for bike lanes, and some bike lanes that do exist are often blocked by parked traffic. Be aware of your surroundings, use proper hand signals and don’t forget a helmet!
Photo Caption: The Northwest Hub offers resources such as classes and bike repairs to the Salem community.
Photo Credit: Sophie Smith