Utah Conservation Corps’ Bike Program Receives Federal Funding, Featured on Public Radio


Credit Matt Jensen – Aggie Blue Bikes ‘wrench lady’ Katie Harker works on a bicycle at the campus shop.

Editor’s Note: Aggie Blue Bikes is a program of the Utah Conservation Corps 

From utahpublicradio.org – by Matt Jensen

Aggie Blue Bikes – the campus shop famous for its Aggie-Blue colored bicycles –will receive nearly $90,000 for a major remodel scheduled for later this year. Program coordinator Stephanie Tomlin says the project will open the shop up for additional space, meaning more work benches, additional student tool boards and more bike storage.

Aggie Blue Bikes offers those in the USU community free bike rentals, access to tools and advice and cycling education. Team members here say each bike goes through a rigorous inspection to make sure they’re fit for the road. A typical safety check starts with a look at the paint, then the seat, then…

“Headset, handlebars, shifters, brake levers, grips, cables, bottom bracket, pedals, chain cassette, hubs, wheel trueness, brakes, tire pressure, stem and reflectors,” says Ryan Keepers with a deep breath. “It’s a very comprehensive checkup.”

Keepers and Katie Harker are two staff members at Aggie Blue Bikes who help keep the bikes in top shape.

At its core, the Blue Bikes program advocates cycling as a viable form of transportation on campus and around town. Program coordinator Stephanie Tomlin:

“We’re always looking to get more people on more bikes more often,” she said. “That’s kind of our catchphrase. And we do so through lending, education and advocacy.”

Students and faculty can rent bikes for 24 hours, or for up to three months. Last year, Aggie Blue Bikes checked out more than 600 three-month rental bikes, 900 24-hour rentals and helped 3,000 USU community members with personal bicycle repair and advice.

“Any opportunity we have to further that movement toward opening streets to be more cycling and pedestrian friendly, we’re in support of that,” she added. “And we can’t forget that our roots are entrenched in improving the air quality here.”

The money for the remodel comes from the federal government’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program. Tomlin says the money will be used to improve on-site bike storage as well as updating the facility with a credit card reader and better software to streamline the check-out process. Long-term bike rentals are so popular at Aggie Blue Bikes, Tomlin says it’s difficult to keep up in the crowded facility.

“The three-month rentals are really the bread and butter of Blue Bikes,” said Tomlin. “We have over 260 bikes in that fleet. They’re extremely popular. The idea behind them is to get people on a bike as a sustainable form of transportation. It’s a little more involved than just taking a quick trip somewhere – we want people to commit to it.”

By removing the barriers to cycling, Tomlin and her staff say the program can help reduce vehicle miles traveled by USU community members.