An English professor is helping students find a more affordable and sustainable means of transportation.
Joel Westwood has been collecting bikes for more than 20 years, building what he calls the “bike library.” He created the library in 2002 after overhearing a group of Swedish international students at a bike shop in town who expressed interest in buying a used bike.
“I started getting bikes and then having them around the house and then I met these international students and I said, ‘[I have] some bikes you could probably use,'” Westwood said. “They came over to my house and I got them on bikes.”
When the group of Swedish students came back the next day, they brought three students from Belgium along with them who also needed bikes. What started as helping one small group of students turned into helping 70 to 100 students per year through word of mouth, Westwood said.
“Students would just start showing up semi-randomly to see about getting a bike from me,” Westwood said.
Westwood said his bike library is open to all students who send him an email or respond to his Craigslist ad with their height, weight and the amount of money they are willing to spend.
Each bike runs for an average of $150 to $180, but Westwood said he is willing to work with students on a price that works for them. After first contact, they can set up a time to meet with him at his house.
“I have in the back of my property 160 bicycle frames stored,” Westwood said. “I go select a frame, that’s the proper size … and then I sell them the bike.”
After selling them the bike, Westwood buys the bike back after they are done with using it and he takes off $10 per month of use. He then cleans the bike, repairs it and gets it ready for the next student.
Westwood said he does not offer much room for customization because he buys and resells used bikes, however he said he will find a frame that best suits the student’s height and weight.
Westwood said his “ultimate aim” is to get those who live near campus on a bike during their time at Cal Poly.
Westwood argued that statistically “there are only three people who ride bicycles” — students, “wannabe Lance Armstrongs” and those who rely upon bicycles as their principal form of transportation. Because of this, he said he wants not only students to ride their bikes, but locals as well.
“My aim is to A) really try and encourage students to cyclo-commute particularly in kind of the radius where a large percentage of the students live around here; and B) to hope that the local community will jump on board with being more cycling friendly,” Westwood said.
Although he said he wants to see an increase in the amount of cyclists in town, Westwood said he is most passionate about change on Cal Poly’s campus.
“I could rant about how un-bike-friendly this campus is,” Westwood said. “There aren’t enough bike racks, there are these prohibitive ‘walk your bike’ areas… and even getting to and from the dorms is not necessarily eased or facilitated by the way that we’ve set up the roadways and arterials.”
Westwood said his goal is to create a bike library system on campus utilizing the funds from the Associated Students Inc. (ASI)’s fee structure that is already in place.
He said if he had his way, he would first give out-of-state students, and eventually all students, the opportunity to get a bike when they first move into the residence halls. He would then train people on going through the process of determining the right size bike for the student to ride as well as how to fix them throughout the year.
“My intent is to get students on bikes, to reduce traffic congestion and to enhance the overall quality of life in the area,” Westwood said.
Those interested in purchasing a bike from Westwood’s program can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.