By Gillian Vickers
Campus News Reporter

Students at UC Santa Cruz sometimes download music or instant-message in class. But it’s hard to imagine that anyone will be digitally distracted in the new student-directed seminar, “The Culture and Community of the Bicycle.”

In the seminar, students dig into the grease and learn the basics of bike maintenance and cycling’s social and environmental implications. At the end of the class, students and professors hope to create a “bike library,” from which students without their own set of wheels will be able to borrow and lend bicycles.

According to the class syllabus, “The ultimate goal of the course is to provide students with the ability to make the wheels of change, pedaling the UCSC campus and the larger community to a more sustainable future.”

Bill Heinrich, coordinator for residential education at Oakes College, currently sponsors the class. Ideally, he said he would like an academic department to sponsor the class.

“We haven’t approached any department yet,” Heinrich said. “But it’s on the agenda.”

Heinrich, a cyclist himself, said he would continue to sponsor the class even if a department does not.

The new bike class is the product of collaboration. Current class instructors Bill Hogan, Sarah Olsen, and Lauren Scott met in a transportation seminar, and started meeting regularly to discuss how to get more people biking.

“Both the bike class and [bike] library were birthed one day late last spring,” Hogan said.

Saylor Flett and Eva Stevens also helped create the class, which includes a hands-on lab in which students learn how to build entire bikes. The class will contribute these bikes to the bike library.

“The bike library will be a facility for people who haven’t really ridden,” said Stevens, one of the class’s five instructors. “[It gives] them the opportunity to try biking without investing a lot of money.”

Class organizers haven’t yet secured a space for the library on campus, but with no shortage of funding or enthusiasm, they feel confident.

“The bike library is an incredible, achievable goal,” said Dorota Szuta, a second-year student enrolled in the course.

Class organizers received over $10,000 from the Campus Sustainability Council to fund the purchase of five bikes, a complete mechanic toolset, and work stands.

“Compared to some plasma accelerator [in the physics department], this has got to be cheap,” said Emile Mulholland, one of the class’s teaching assistants.

The class is open to all skill levels and instructors encourage “stupid” questions.

“I’ve even had someone ask me what threads are,” Bill Hogan lab manager said.

He said that the mixed skill level gives the class a collaborative, interactive nature.

“There’s already been talk of some of the more advanced students becoming [next year’s] class instructors,” Hogan said.

In the lab section of class, students get dirty as they familiarize themselves with the nuts and bolts of bicycles, and there seems to be no lack of commitment or enthusiasm for the new bike class.

As Hogan put it, “There’s so much positivity it’s ridiculous.”