Building Bikes, Building Community

Kate Melanson

Bicycles were fixed, registered, ridden and won at the first annual Lorain County Bike Festival last Saturday in Oberlin’s Depot Park. The date was chosen to mark’s Moving Planet Day, on which groups in over 175 countries around the organized events celebrating efforts to move away from fossil fuel use.

The event was sponsored by Students for Environmental Sustainability, an organization that focuses on issues ranging from on-campus energy usage to problems associated with nationwide energy extraction.

The 500 Bike Festival attendees had the opportunity to win free bikes and donate their unwanted ones. Oberlin students and employees from Swerve, the bike shop that opened on Main Street this fall, offered festival-goers tips on bike repair.

“I’m hoping that it really taught people the value of bikes … this goes for both the community and the campus,” said College sophomore Maggie Heraty, one of the festival’s organizers. “Hopefully seeing that many bikes and providing more bike access to College kids and the community members allowed them to do that.”

SES worked with Bryce Rapp of BikePointe Ministries, who visited churches around Lorain County prior to the event to involve community members in the festival. The organizers chose to hold the festival off campus and charged no entry fee in an effort to make the event accessible to all residents of Lorain County.

“The whole event was free so that even people of low-income status could be involved,” said Heraty.

Although some in attendance seemed disappointed that there weren’t enough complimentary bicycles for everyone, two rounds of raffles provided many with not only bikes but also accessories such as helmets, locks and even gift cards to local businesses. College first-year Christopher Ayoub came to school without a bike but was one of many to win one at the festival.

“I was really excited because I love biking, and it makes [it] easier to get around,” said Ayoub, who was already making plans for what to do with his new bike. “I’ll probably use it to go downtown … and when I’m in a hurry.”

While many people left the festival excited about their new biking gear, the inaugural event didn’t go exactly according to plan. Most attendees were too engaged in fixing their bikes and enjoying themselves to participate in the scheduled community bike ride that was to be led by local policemen. Organizers hope to work out some of the logistics for next year’s festival.

“A big part of this event that we wanted to kind of focus on, too, was trying to make a better connection between the College and the town,” said Heraty. “So we’re hoping to have a follow-up event pretty soon, if we can, to sort of have a community and student discussion about why was this important and what can this promote in the town. [We want to discuss] how can we all work together to make bike transportation more accessible and public transportation in general better in Lorain County.”