On a crisp Sunday afternoon in early fall, the Cyclab — the University’s student-run bicycle co-op — was a hive of activity. Inside and outside the Cyclab’s home behind the Wawa on University Place, students were busy fixing their bikes. Some seemed at ease, others confused.
“It’s like having your own garage at college, except it’s filled with friendly people,” said Lewis Kerwin ’12, holding a repair manual as he worked on his bike’s brakes.
Mechanics weaved through the bikes, giving advice when necessary. Though there is a suggested donation of $5 an hour, the Cyclab is not a money-making venture — the mechanics are volunteers.
“The mechanics don’t just fix bikes, they teach people how to fix bikes,” said Raphi Frankfurter ’13, the co-manager of U-Bikes, the University’s bike rental program that works closely with the Cyclab. “It really has a cooperative feel to it. No one owns anything here.”
In addition to assisting with bike repairs and maintenance, the Cyclab also salvages abandoned bikes. The bikes then are rented out to students and faculty for $15 per semester.
“We have 115 U-Bikes out, and have another 75 that will go out before the end of the semester,” Frankfurter said. “We have a record waiting list of 400 people who want to rent a bike.”
Jeffrey Domanski GS, program manager of the University’s Office of Sustainability, said the Cyclab encourages bicycle ridership “by demystifying bike maintenance and through the enthusiasm of everyone involved.”
For the student volunteers, the Cyclab is much more than a workshop.
“I didn’t start loving Princeton until I got involved in the co-op,” said Emily Sullivan ’11, a volunteer bike mechanic, as music played from a boom box and students chatted while tightening screws and spinning wheels. “It’s my home.”
Sean Gleason ’09, who founded the Cyclab in fall 2007, said this sense of community was an essential part of his “bike co-op dream.”
“I wanted to make a space for me and other people like me, who had a DIY mentality,” he said. Gleason’s love of cycling continued after Princeton: As a bike messenger in Philadelphia he travels 40 to 50 miles a day, delivering medical documents and legal records.