By J. Gabriel Ware
Western Michigan University Public Safety has approximately 50 bikes in an undisclosed storage room on campus, said a public safety official.
The department collects about 50 to 60 bikes each year and expects to collect at least 50 more bikes by May, according to Sgt. Andrew Bachmann.
Bachmann says he plans to make a final decision on what to do with the bikes by summer, after he meets with Kalamazoo County, the Surplus Store and the Office of Sustainability.
In previous years, the department sold the bikes at $15 a piece at Kalamazoo County’s public auction, Bachmann says. But since he became in charge of the bikes last year, Bachmann has been searching for additional and more effective ways to dispose of them.
“The bikes are eating up our inventory,” Bachmann says. “I don’t want our storage area going from 50 bikes to 500 bikes and 500 bikes to 5,000 bikes.”
Last spring the department, for the first time, handed over the bikes to WMU’s Surplus Store, which resells excess university-owned property as-is to the public.
Thomas Wright, surplus sales coordinator, says he received 93 bikes from Public Safety last spring, some of which included mountain bikes, street racing bikes and BMXs. The bikes were advertised as $15 and up, according to a May 2015 post from the store’s Facebook account. Wright says the store, which opens every other week, nearly sold out of bikes in its first two openings after receiving bikes. He remembers helping one customer cram 13 to 15 bikes into the back of a pickup truck.
“When we opened at noon, there was a long line of people waiting at the door,” Wright says. “The bikes doubled our sales.”
The sale of each item worth more than $50 is to be credited back to the department that gave the item, according to the Surplus Sales and Disposal Statement. Wright says some departments use the surplus store to earn extra money.
“We get a little money in return, but it’s not much,” Bachmann says in regard to the bikes. “My main focus is getting rid of them.”
Bachmann says although some of the bikes are collected via confiscation, the majority of them are possessed through the department’s annual “bike round up,” in which officers stop at WMU residences after spring graduation to collect bikes left behind on the racks. The department holds the bikes for six months for reclaim.
In addition to using the Surplus Store, Bachmann says he considered giving the bikes to the Office of Sustainability. The Office of Sustainability operates the Open Bike Shop every Friday, in which community bikers use the office’s tools for free to repair their bikes. Harold Glasser, executive director for campus sustainability, says he spoke with Public Safety in the past about receiving the bikes.
“We chose to back away from [negations with Public Safety] in part because we couldn’t pay for these bikes to refurbish them,” he says.
Bachmann says he’s unaware of past negotiations between Public Safety and the Office of Sustainability. But he says some parts of the bikes may still be useful to the Office of Sustainability.
Luis Morales works in the Open Bike Shop where he helps visitors make repairs. He says the shop would be better if it had functional bike parts for its visitors to use.
“I’ve seen the bikes Public Safety’s in storage room,” Morales says. “The people who buy those bikes to use won’t benefit because most of those bikes are too broken and too rusty to last.”
Morales says the physical condition of the bikes are the main reason they’re abandoned in the first place.
Morales also says that the university doesn’t provide enough inside spaces for bikes, forcing a lot of students to park their bikes outside where they’re likely to be hit by rain and snow, which causes the metals to rust.
Adam Wall, hall director of WMU apartments, says he hasn’t received any complaints from students in regard to not having enough space to put their bikes.
Sam Ephland, a senior and graphic design who also worked as a mechanic in the Open Bike Shop, says he has three bikes. One is chained to Spindler Hall’s staircase, and the other two are disassembled in his dorm. He says he never leaves his bikes outside.
“I see a lot of busted abandoned bikes on campus,” Ephland says. “Public safety doesn’t need any more money. It’s better to just give them