UTS Bike Club
BIKESydney attended the launch of the University of Technology Housing Service’s Bike Club in early April.
Ella Bothmann-Barlow investigated further.
I’m on my way to chat with Andrew Redgrave about UTS Housing’s newly launched Bike Club. I’d hoped to get myself from my Darlinghurst office to Ultimo on my much-loved bicycle. Instead, I chicken out and catch the bus. I usually ride my bicycle at least three times a week, often more, but Sydney’s been mercilessly pelted with rain for the last four or five days.
As I try to make out the dreary cityscape through my foggy and water-splattered bus window, I silently curse my lack of pedal power. The rain’s stopped. With my now-useless umbrella in hand, I get lost in the bowels of a university building before finally stumbling upon a sign that leads me to the UTS Housing Service. Andrew had told me people often get lost looking for Building 6, so I am quite proud of myself, although later I realise I’d taken the more complicated, meandering, back route, when I could have just buzzed the front door.
The receptionist asks me to wait, so I sit down and take in the comfortable interior dotted with all manner of flyers and posters to help student residents settle in.
A friendly and soft-spoken man greets me shortly afterwards and introduces himself as Andrew Redgrave from the University’s Student Housing Service. At the reception counter he shows me an A4 sheet of bicycle bookings. The UTS Housing Bike Club has been officially running only for a few weeks and already there are a dozen names scrolled on the page.
Andrew explains that around 70% of the students living at UTS Housing are international students, many of whom find it expensive to move around the city. Thanks to a grant of $8,000 from the City of Sydney, Andrew has purchased two cargo bikes and is hoping to “…add another seven or eight regular bicycles to the current ‘up-cycled’ fleet of seven”.
We walk down a corridor that looks familiar – the way I came in – and enter an enclosed bicycle parking area. Bikes are parked in rows along the floor and hanging from the walls. At the back of the room, I immediately spot three bicycles with lime-green frames. “I got a quote to get them powder-coated for $30 each, but so far we’ve found it’s been OK to paint them ourselves,” Andrew says. The current UTS Housing fleet has been reclaimed from bicycles abandoned by previous students. Student volunteers have given them a new lease on life, and they’re available to borrow along with lights, a helmet and a lock, all free of charge.
On the left-hand side of the room lies a treasure trove of odds and ends, unwanted goods left by past and present students in the hope that others will find them useful. “See these jeans,” Andrew smirks. “They are a bit short but I got wet riding to work this morning, so I came down here for a quick costume change.” Unlike me, Andrew rode his beautiful fixed-speed Bianchi to work today and it also hangs proudly in the room.
He takes me to their bicycle restoration area, located elsewhere on campus, and I see another five or six frames being prepped for painting and reassembly. He tells me the bicycles are only available to UTS Housing students at this stage, but the aim is to make them available university-wide if and when the program succeeds.
My tour is drawing to a close, and I am feeling yet more buoyant about the power of the bike after a hearty discussion between two bicycle lovers. I’m secretly hoping the students continue to get involved in such a great project, but I am concerned. Sydney can be difficult to crack as a beginner on two wheels. But it seems I needn’t have worried. We return to the bicycles, and a student is wheeling out a lime-green frame. Another student stands proudly beside her own white Dutch-style bicycle and tells me she has finally convinced her friend to come riding with her in the park. Her friend has not ridden in four years but she is giving it a go, and that alone makes the project a success.
It’s almost 5pm when I leave Andrew and the students behind, but I head to the train station with a spring in my step vowing to leave my umbrella at home the next time it rains and take my bicycle out for a spin instead.