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No gearing up for Summer?

Monday, April 5, 2010

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  • Many students have opted to bike to school during the recent warm weather.

    Many students have opted to bike to school during the recent warm weather.

  • Many students have opted to bike to school during the recent warm weather.

    Many students have opted to bike to school during the recent warm weather.

  • patrons' bikes await repairs and tune ups in the Bike Centre

    patrons' bikes await repairs and tune ups in the Bike Centre

  • Biology House, whose basement is occupied by the Bike Centre, is slated for demolition

    Biology House, whose basement is occupied by the Bike Centre, is slated for demolition

Written by Martina Schaefer

Clarification: The CSA Bike Centre was originally slated to close on April 16th, but is now being moved to the Federal Building across the street. More to come.

During the CSA Board of Directors meeting on March 24th, it was announced that the Bike Centre would close temporarily at the end of the winter 2010 semester due to lack of space.

Biology House, the building which houses the Bike Centre as well as the CSA Food Bank, has been slated for demolition for a number of years. While a temporary space has been found for the Food Bank until a long-term one is available, the Bike Centre was deemed less essential than the Food Bank, and no temporary space has been found for it thus far.

“We have been aware of this for some years and our agreement with the University has always been temporary with the commitment that equivalent space would be provided for the CSA Food Bank when the demolition would occur. There is nothing in the agreement that guarantees space for the CSA Bike Centre,” reads a part of the letter addressed to board members by Local Affairs Commissioner Galen Fick in the March 24th board package.

The letter also stated the CSA’s plans to eliminate the Bike Centre Summer Coordinator position for the time being, due to the temporary closure of the Centre.

"From a human resources perspective, it's just not proper practice to hire people when you don't know their terms of employment or their job duties," Fick said of the summer job cut.

Although it will be closed for an as yet undetermined amount of time over the summer, Fick said he's considering a number of promising options for a new space come September.

"There was never a question of whether there would be a space [for the Bike Centre] for the fall...we're looking at comparable spaces. I'm looking forward to having it all finalized."

Current Bike Centre staff members have expressed concern about students and community members not having access to this service during its busiest season, as well as the lack of dialogue that occurred between themselves and the CSA regarding this issue.  Coordinators had known Biology House would be demolished, but were under the impression that the Bike Centre would still be in operation after the move.

“It was always talked about as if there would be some alternative service offered, and the Bike Centre Summer Coordinator position would still be available,” said Sarah Ayton, the current Bike Centre Volunteer Coordinator.

“The Bike Centre in the summertime especially is an essential service,” she argued. “[It’s essential] for people who are using bikes as their primary mode of transportation, because they can’t use the bus, or because they can’t afford a car, and because walking to work takes too long. A lot of people need to be able to ride their bikes, and a lot of people cannot afford to pay for a shop to repair them.”

Cecilia Sydor Estable, the current Bike Centre Coordinator, is also concerned that the closure of the Centre will affect students and community members negatively, especially those on limited budgets and those who might feel less than welcome in a typical bicycle repair shop.

“We are the only space within the city of Guelph that allows access to tools, access to manuals, access to really cheap new parts, and free old parts,” she said of the Centre. “We’re also the only place in the city of Guelph that has a women & trans night, and to my understanding, [the only place that] has it written within the mandate that it should be an open and inviting place for all.”

Ayton also feels strongly about the Bike Centre’s anti-oppressive policies and goals. “We’re also a space that explores social justice and class issues, and those as being an important part of how a space operates. I think that’s really unique for Guelph.”

Typically, the Bike Centre sees about ten patrons per day during their usual 4-5 hour winter semester shifts, and more during the summer, coordinators said. Around 15 people have volunteered throughout the year, helping staff the Centre as well as working on promotions or facilitating bike repair workshops.

Both Ayton and Sydor Estable feel more could have been done to find an alternative to the summer closure of the Bike Centre, had they known the situation and had the opportunity to discuss other possibilities with CSA staff.

“We are the two people within the CSA who know the most about how the elimination of the summer position and the closure of the Bike Centre in the summer will affect the student population, and we were not consulted,” said Sydor Estable. “We were just informed of a decision that had already been made. There was no dialogue, and now we’re in the position where we have to try and open up that dialogue, when it seems like it’s already been closed.”

While the Bike Centre will be in limbo in the near future until it moves into a new space come fall, efforts are being made to ensure some services remain available during the summer.

“Right now we’re looking at planning & proposing an alternative summer bike repair space. We’re hoping to at least have some minimum service offered so people can do basic repairs, though that is so, so far from ideal,” said Ayton. “A lot of people find it incredibly empowering to be able to learn how to fix their own bikes."

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