Administrative Executive Editor
The maintenance and repair of green bikes have now fallen onto the shoulders of only one mechanic.
Sarah Penney, a sophomore at Keene State College who is working on a second bachelor’s degree, is the sole mechanic working on green bikes at the moment. Because of this, only 53 bikes were deemed safe and sent to the library for checkout at the beginning of the semester.
Lindsae Loomis, a student who works at the Mason Library circulation desk, explained the role they play in the program. “We are sort of the people that distribute the green bikes to the students, I suppose… People check them out like you would a library book pretty much.”
Jeff Kazin, the Access Services Manager at the Mason Library, added that the bikes have always been popular with students, so it is difficult to tell if more students are interested in renting a bike than ever before. “It’s hard to say [if popularity is growing.] I know this year we had a very limited number of bikes that were available and they all went in less than 48 hours. It certainly seems like they may be [popular], but they have always been so.”
The popularity of the green bikes program has made it difficult to keep up with at times. Penney, who became involved in the program due to an interest in mechanics, originally joined the program to build upon skills. However, Penney was also intrigued by the sustainability aspects of the bikes. “I thought it would be something that could help me build on a skill that I would like to learn for my own personal hobby and then also contribute to the Office of Sustainability,” Penney explained. “I love green bikes, I love the idea of reducing our own carbon footprint by riding bikes around town. I also see the importance for a lot of students who rely on them and who don’t have a vehicle to get to work, which helps them pay for college.”
Loomis agreed that many students use green bikes as their main source of transportation, particularly when the weather is nice. “I mean a lot of students don’t have cars on campus and so it’s a good way for them to get places. And, when the weather is nice, there are a lot of pretty areas you can go with the bike. I think it’s a good thing for students.”
As of recently, the green bikes program has become entirely student-run. For many years before that, it was organized and maintained by staff member Marcus McCarroll, who was one of the program’s founders in 2005. Now, Penney is the only mechanic left, but the program is looking to grow. “The idea is that the program will be run by people who want to fix bikes,” Penney said. “We are looking for anyone, [it] doesn’t matter what their mechanical aptitude is, what their experience is. If it is something they are interested in then this is the perfect place to learn.”
With buyouts and layoffs this past summer, the Office of Sustainability took a major hit. The popularity of the green bikes program was almost not enough to save it from being cut. Even now, with Penney as the only mechanic, it is in a critical state. “I can tell you this program was on the brink of not existing this semester,” Penney said. “And right now, I am the only mechanic down here. That creates a single point of failure. So it’s safe to say that this program has not fully been rescued. Because if I trip and break my wrist on the way out of [the shop,] there are no more mechanics to fix the bikes. There is definitely a need for volunteers if we want to keep the program going and see green bikes running around Keene in the next five, 10 years.”
There are major concerns about the longevity of the program, even with its sustained popularity over the years. Penney explained the role that students who are involved with the program play in saving it. “I hope the students who use it, who need it, are able to donate some of their time to keep it running in the future.”
It is not only about the longevity of the program, however, but also the bikes themselves that needs to be thought about. Penney received many bikes after last semester with dented wheels, broken chains and extreme rust. “The reason we are doing these drop-in hours and clinics is, frankly, because students need to take better care of their bikes and we want to enable them to do that… About 50% of [last year’s] returns were in need of some type of repair that made the bike not safe to ride. And, frankly, I find it hard to believe that it all happened in the last week of the semester. We want students to bring in the bikes as [damages] happen so I’m not inundated with 50 repairs in one week, I can just fix it as it occurs.”
Though many people may be afraid of getting in trouble or losing their bikes if they come to the shop to get damages fixed, Penney said this is not the case. “One thing I want students out there who have a bike to know is that you will not lose custody of your bike if you bring it back and it needs a repair. We will hold it here until it is fully repaired and I will let that student know when they can come pick up their bike.”
Despite these setbacks, the program (with the help of Penney) is perhaps more active than it ever has been. “We are going to be having monthly clinics,” Penney said.“We are going to be out on the student [center] lawn. Students can bring their green bikes by, students can bring their personal bikes by, I’m going to have a bike stand out there so we can really help students take care of their bikes. If they stop in I will lube their chain, pump up their tires. If they need any adjustments, say they don’t like how their seat is or how their handlebars are set, I can switch it around for them.”
The first clinic for green bikes is September 20, 2021. The green bike shop is located in the basement of Keddy House next to the Commons. They have drop-in hours for services on green bikes and personal bikes every Monday of the semester, unless it’s a holiday.
Any student who did not get a green bike this semester and really wanted one can volunteer in the shop with Penney. There are many tasks that can be done such as inventory, painting, maintenance and repairs. Volunteering will not only keep the program running, but it is also the only way students can get a green bike if they weren’t able to secure one early on in the semester.
Meeghan Somerset can be contacted at