Giving Abandoned Bikes New Life

One visiting PhD student from Portugal was helped getting around campus and Athens by a special program that recycles abandoned bikes at the University of Georgia.

Started in 2014, the UGA reCycle program refurbishes abandoned bikes on campus and gives them to UGA students and employees who need them for transportation.

Priscilla Cardoso Rodrigues, a visiting PhD student at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, explained how the reCYCLE program allowed her to be independent during her studies at UGA.

“The program was everything for me, because I used the bike to get around, and everywhere I go I use the bike,” Rodrigues said. “To get to my office, to get to the parties, to get to everywhere, to visit friends I use the bike; for me it’s very helpful and useful.”

Priscilla Cardoso Rodrigues taking advantage of the bike lent to her during her studies through the UGA reCYCLE program. (Photo/ Priscilla Rodrigues)

For some students who cycle around campus, abandoned bikes in front of classes, dinning or residence halls take space on racks and can subsequently force bikers to lock their bikes along nearby fences.

Griffin Hendricks, a freshman studying finance with a minor in history from Decatur, said he brought his bike to UGA because his dad had done the same while at college.

“My dad encouraged me to, that’s what he did in college, told me it’s the quickest way to get around, so I thought it was a good idea.” Hendricks said.

Hendricks said his bike cost him $500 and that he couldn’t imagine abandoning his bike anywhere.

“I spent too much money on that [bike] to just leave it somewhere for someone to take.”- Griffin Hendricks, Freshman

Jason Perry, the Sustainability Specialist of the Office of Sustainability at UGA, also leads the reCYCLE program.

To receive a bike, students can obtain a referral from services including: Student Care and Outreach, Student Emergency Fund, Fanning Institute EMBARK, and CAPS.

The Office of Sustainability tags bikes, letting the owner know that the bike appears to be abandoned and the day it will be collected. If the owner doesn’t retrieve the bike within 90 days of being tagged, the bike is cut from the rack, with the presence of campus police, and held at the Chicopee Complex for another 90 days.

Tagged bike outside the main library, north campus. (Photo/ Maxime Tamsett)

Perry explained that owners could still retrieve their bike within these 180 days.

“The police let us know [that the owner called], they can come in here and identify it and the lock is the way we can identify the owner,” Perry said. “If they can operate the lock, they are more than likely the owner and they can reclaim it.”

Abandoned bike outside Brumby Hall. (Photo/ Maxime Tamsett)

Once the 180 days have passed, the bike changes hands several times.

“So this abandoned property, which includes bikes, they take to a judge who basically signs off that we followed all proper procedures, and once that is done, the UGA police have a non-profit sign off the property.” Perry said.

Perry explained that Bike Athens takes some of the bikes while other bikes are designated for use in the reCYCLE program too.

The next question faced by the Office of Sustainability is whether the bike can be refurbished.

“Unfortunately, the majority of the bikes collected are a real hot mess, I mean they’re usually really cheap bikes to begin with, and then they’ve sat in the weather for years really, degrading.” Perry said.

Jason Perry working in his office. (Photo/ Maxime Tamsett)

Bikes that are beyond repair are scrapped and recycled for metal and rubber.

It is the better quality bikes that have a chance at being repaired and reused to be lent to students and UGA staff in need of transportation.

According to Perry, 20 bikes have been permanently given to those who needed them since reCYCLE started.

Whether a Georgia native or visiting from overseas, the bike reCYCLE program is available to students who need them.

Rodrigues explained how she believes the program promotes a sustainable lifestyle.

Priscilla Cardoso Rodrigues took advantage of the reCYCLE during her studies abroad at UGA. (Photo/ Maxime Tamsett)

“I have the money to buy another bike, but I don’t want to buy another bike because I want to share my bike. It’s a very important program because it allows you to share things and be less consumerist.” Rodrigues said.

Rodrigues had never seen such a bike-lending program at either of previous universities she had attended. She said she hopes to create a similar program one day at her alma mater in Brazil.

Perry explained that while he is glad that the project exists, the root of the problem of abandoned bikes still remains; people are leaving their bikes.

While efforts like putting up fliers across campus are being made to keep students aware of ways to maintain their bikes, and hopefully not abandon their bike after a flat tire, Perry said he wishes people would choose to donate their bike before leaving it to rust.

“I think people don’t forget that they had a bike, they know it’s there, and they may just assume somebody will take care of it. Yeah, we will, but it’s a pain, so do something with it,” Perry said. “Take it with you, or maybe before it gets to the point where it looks like garbage, donate it to someone who needs it.”

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