Library debuts Ole Bikes program

Returning students who bore witness to the rise and fall of St. Olaf’s Green Bikes program will be delighted to see bike-lend- ing return with Rolvaag Memorial Library’s new and improved Ole Bikes initiative. As of Sept. 12, students can check out one of 30 yellow bikes for use on campus and around Northfield. The former Green Bikes program, which debuted in 2011, dissolved as each of the bike in the fleet fell into a state of disrepair.

“[The Green Bikes] were not owned by the library; the library agreed to administer them, so there was this question of who should repair the bikes, who’s going to maintain them, is there a budget for this?” Access Services Librarian Sara Payne said. “It was a really major stress point for all of us who work in the Access Services portion of the library because people would come and ask to check out a bike and we often did not have one that was functional.”

Payne “became a pest” to her superiors at Rolvaag and asked to be involved with the initiative once the resources became available.

“Roberta [Lembke], head of library IT, devoted the time of some summer staff to take the bikes down, see what repairs were needed and arrange to have chains replaced,” Payne said. “In the process of looking for spare parts, they found 30 brand new bikes, still in the box and not even put together yet.”

The bicycles, which are meant to be ridden only on paved roads, may be checked out for 48 hours at a time and are logged in students’ library records just like a book or other equipment would be. Catalyst, the library’s online catalog, shows how many bikes are available to be rented at any given time.

Payne has set up a bike-related display near the entrance of Rolvaag featuring, among other cycling paraphernalia, infor- mation on biking laws and safety tips.

“Do you know that bikers are subject to the same laws as car drivers? You need to go the same direction as traffic, you shouldn’t ride your bike on the sidewalk … it’s also a Minnesota law to have lights on after dusk.” Lights and reflectors are attached to every Ole Bike and while it is not required that cyclists wear a helmet, the library must offer one with every rental.

While it is not immediately clear the funds required to maintain the bikes will always be available, Ole Bikes are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

“Myron [Engle, a desktop support spe- cialist in the IT department] claims we should not have any maintenance to do for a year,” Payne said. “We do have pumps that can be checked out and we will have a bike maintenance station to be used by staff should there be anything that needs it.”

Francesca Bester ’21 has used an Ole Bike for several trips to and from Carleton College.

“The gears didn’t shift as well as they should have, but it felt like a very sturdy bike, like it wasn’t going to break or any- thing,” Bester said. “It was really difficult to ride uphill compared to other bikes I’ve ridden, possibly because it is so sturdy and big, but I thought a loaner bike would be more rickety, so I was pleasantly surprised.”