A homeless Bike Root will hurt campus

After endless boasting of their sustainability initiatives, you’d think the University of Calgary would try just a little harder to uphold its environmentally friendly persona. The university gave Bike Root, a community organization that teaches bike maintenance and rents to students and faculty, a notice to vacate last month. Bike Root was funded by a Quality Money initiative totaling $37,000 that the university gave to the Students’ Union for such projects. Yet with all the quadrangle construction taking place, Bike Root is losing their home and the university is backpedaling from its sustainable commitments.

The university has dedicated an enormous amount of time and resources to the environmental cause. Every year, the university blankets campus in posters urging students and staff to take part in the Commuter Challenge. In 2009, the university came in second place in Canada with over 800 volunteers and offered bike repairs to participants. The school is currently finishing construction on an Energy, Environment and Experiential Learning Centre with LEED certification, a high standard of energy efficiency that most new university projects meet. Even cleaning products have been switched to “green” versions. Despite these efforts, they’ve decided to neglect one of the few ways that students could get involved in the move to more sustainable solutions.

Bike Root is a haven for the environmentally conscious, those looking to get in shape and even the scores that simply can’t afford cars and can’t stand transit. The university gave them temporary space in a previously unusable loading dock with the implication that sustainability ventures were a priority that would be supported. In the last two years, Bike Root has had a growing presence on campus. From fixing bikes to hosting barbecues, they’ve been there for students wanting a new set of skills and a new set of friends. Administration may be making promises to lower emissions, and that’s fantastic, but they’ll need students’ help to do so. Moving from a real workshop space into an underground parking lot, one of the few options being considered, will drastically cut Bike Root’s ability to help.

The U of C’s actions contradict their end goal. If they really do want be sustainable, they can not afford to have the Bike Root move off campus. The university has already soured its relationship with students in recent months– cutting evening and weekend classes, adding a $450 dollar service fee and increasing tuition with the help of market modifiers– and closing Bike Root would be just another step towards isolating students from the school’s future. Over 1,000 students bike to campus every day and those bikes will need more than just a place to park.

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