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Campus & Community

Breaking a Cycle of Waste

DOTS Program Gives New Life to Unwanted Bikes

By Annie Krakower

Bicycle Recycle illustration

Illustration courtesy of DOTS

The Bicycle Recycle program makes sure old bikes don't go to waste by refurbishing and selling them to students at a discount.

As Terps pack for the summer—with many likely wondering how they piled up so much stuff during the year—some things won’t make the cut. If that something is a bike, a new Department of Transportation Services program offers an alternative to the dumpster (or the tried-and-true method of locking it on the rack and throwing away the key).

Through the Bicycle Recycle initiative, which is shifting into high gear for move-out this week, University Recreation and Wellness mechanics refurbish bikes donated to DOTS, which plans to sell them at a discount to students during the Transportation Fair in September.

“We want to cultivate a culture of donation rather than abandonment, which also cuts back on environmental waste,” said Cara Fleck Plewinski ’07, DOTS assistant director for marketing and communications.

DOTS finds around 200 bikes abandoned on campus each year, especially during the summer. Teams scan racks to find bikes that show signs of disuse—maybe they have a flat tire or rusted chains—and tag them to warn owners that they have two weeks to pick up them up.

If no one does, DOTS team members cut the lock on each bike and bring it to Regents Drive Garage, where they retain it for a year as required by law, during which owners can come collect their lost wheels.

After that, bikes still deemed useable may be donated to community partners, such as Bikes for the World or Gearin’ Up Bicycles. Those that aren’t useable are sometimes salvaged for parts, but real junkers can end up in landfills.

“We try to handle each bike with care,” said Marta Woldu, bicycle and sustainable transportation coordinator for DOTS, “but sitting for a whole year in a dusty garage is not the same as being regularly used and maintained.”

Under Bicycle Recycle, DOTS seeks to avoid the landfills by selling donated bikes, tuned up by RecWell Bike Shop employees, to Terps for around $75, with proceeds going back into the program. While the refurbished bikes are intended for students, anyone can donate a bike at the DOTS Office in Regents Drive Garage or at the Bike Shop.

Bicycle Recycle is backed by a Sustainability Fund grant to promote the initiative, pay RecWell mechanics and purchase replacement parts and materials. After a two-year pilot period, Fleck Plewinski said, DOTS will evaluate feedback to determine how to proceed.

“The ultimate goal is making biking more accessible to students,” said Amanda Preperato, assistant director of RecWell’s Adventure Program and a Bicycle Recycle partner. “You don’t need to go out and buy a new, expensive bike.”

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