Champaign, Urbana to install six new bike repair stations

Tires wear out, derailleurs derail and even seats sometimes sink down. Now, bicyclists in Champaign and Urbana can tend to these minor bike maintenance issues while out and about.

Six new bike repair stations are being installed throughout the region, with the first already in use at the Main Street parking garage in downtown Urbana and another recently installed near the Penn Station restaurant in Campustown. Other locations include: the Henry Administration Building parking lot, the Illinois Terminal, 45 E. University Ave. and on Pennsylvania Avenue near The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign’s shop and at the northwest corner of the Hill Street parking garage in downtown Champaign.

These blue steel racks, with an assortment of tools tethered by steel cables, are part of a joint project between the University of Illinois, the cities of Champaign and Urbana and the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District, or MTD. Planners involved in the project expect the new fixtures, which may be the first of their kind in Illinois, to encourage bicycle ridership and increase mobility.

Brad Bennett, senior civil engineer for the city of Urbana, said the racks fit with the overall effort to continue making Urbana a bicycle friendly community.

“We’re trying to construct as many bike lanes and off-street bike facilities to facilitate bicyclists,” he said. “This is one component of that effort.”

Bennett said in addition to encouraging a healthy lifestyle, working to become a bike friendly community will help to cut congestion and reduce parking demands around campus by increasing the use of alternative transportation.

Cynthia Hoyle, transportation planning consultant for MTD, said the bike repair stations fit into MTD’s role as a “mobility provider” in the community. Hoyle said she saw the bike stations during a planning workshop in Cambridge, Mass. earlier this year. She thought they would be a good addition to the Illinois Terminal, where she said such a station would benefit the many bicyclists who ride MTD buses daily.

Around the same time Hoyle brought the idea to MTD’s attention, the city of Champaign approached them as well as the University and the city of Urbana with the same idea. T.J. Blakeman, executive director of the Champaign Center Partnership, said in an email that the joint venture was a way of saving money on the cost of each bike station through a volume discount.

Mark Skione,marketing director for Minneapolis-based Dero Bike Rack Company, which makes the bike racks, said they retail for about $1,145 each, plus shipping costs. The four agencies paid under $1,200 for each stand.

Skione said the racks are popular on university campuses, such as the University of Virginia and the University of California at Los Angeles, and had been installed in over 100 cities in the U.S. and on the Dutch railway system. To his knowledge, they were the first such racks Dero had sold for installation in Illinois, he said.

Bennett said he was certain they are the first racks of their kind in central Illinois. Bennett also said that the city of Urbana plans to post signs on Main Street to make bicyclists aware of the repair stations.

Geoff Merritt is a board member of Champaign County Bikes, or CCB, an advocacy group for bicyclists, and is also the owner of That’s Rentertainment, 516 E. John St., a video rental store. He said the racks fulfill a need in Campustown.

His shop began selling a selection of inner tubes, patch kits and other bicycle gear a few years ago because of the lack of repair shops central to campus. Aside from a bike pump, he said his shop does not contain many of the tools that bicyclists need, nor does it allow them enough work space.

“We don’t have tools or facilities that the new racks do,” he said.

The new stands are designed to hold a bike by its seat in an elevated position, while the cyclist works on it with the screwdrivers, assorted wrenches and tire lever attached to the rack by long steel cables. The rack also features a bike pump that works with either Presta- or Schrader-type valves.

Ashley Rosener, graduate student, said she bikes every day as long as it is not raining. She read about the new bike stations on the CCB listserv and hopes they increase ridership on campus.

“I know that when I was a student, I didn’t have any tools, and if something happened to my bike, I wouldn’t use it for a long time.”

Barry Isralewitz, co-founder of The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign, a co-op where community members can repair and learn about bikes, said he welcomed the new racks.

“We are thrilled,” he said. “Twenty four-hour access to a do-it-yourself repair station makes it easier for anyone to commute.”