Cyclab closes as it breaks from U-Bikes, administration
The Cyclab student co-op, which repaired bicycles for free, has closed down this fall after a divorce from its former partner organization, U-Bikes. It had been operating for six years.
The building at 130 University Place near the WaWa, formerly occupied by both Cyclab and U-Bikes — which rents bikes to students — will be demolished once the construction of the new Arts and Transit Neighborhood begins.
Last spring, the University asked both Cyclab and U-Bikes to leave the building in anticipation of the construction. U-Bikes adapted by becoming a Princeton Student Agency, though it is not yet sure where it will base its operations. U-Bikes then took possession of the tools it had previously shared with Cyclab. Left without tools or a place to set up shop, Cyclab decided to close.
Cyclab, founded in 2006 as a nonprofit organization by Sean Gleason ’09, worked together with U-Bikes to repair and rent out bicycles to students, particularly residents of Forbes College. Through Cyclab, volunteer mechanics fixed bicycles and taught people to fix their own bikes at open houses.
“The idea was not only to provide affordable care and service for bikes, but also to make people more self-sustainable and, in conjunction, promote a generally more sustainable lifestyle,” Cliff Whetung ’13, a former mechanic for Cyclab, said.
Cyclab worked closely with U-Bikes at the beginning of their joint history, as Cyclab’s mechanics regularly fixed U-Bikes’ bicycles, and their management staff was coordinated.
“I loved it,” USG senator Dillon Sharp ’14, who led the USG committee focused on promoting and supporting biking on campus, said about Cyclab. “They had a great culture. It was all about teaching people to fix their own bikes, which was nice.”
Before last spring, U-Bikes had been receiving administrative support from the Office of Sustainability. Nevertheless, Office of Sustainability Manager Shana Weber said it was never a “University-sponsored program.” The office also provided administrative services to Cyclab, though only because it was affiliated with U-Bikes.
When the University decided this spring that the building housing U-Bikes and Cyclab would have to be demolished, the two organizations began discussing options for the future. Through these talks, U-Bikes decided it would collaborate with Princeton Student Agencies to become a for-profit business, thus formally splitting with Cyclab.
It was at this point that Cyclab decided to become more independent from U-Bikes, according to Weber.
Once the two organizations decided to formally separate, U-Bikes — now a Student Agency — took sole ownership of the tools and space the two had previously been sharing.
“They took all the tools they had been sharing with Cyclab, and so Cyclab was left without tools and without space because they were kicked out of 130 University Place, which kind of just meant they were dead,” Sharp said.
Due to these losses, Cyclab had no choice but to close indefinitely this fall, according to Whetung, the mechanic. Currently, several former members of Cyclab are hoping to revive the operation by searching for a new space, tools and funding source. The former members are also currently in discussion with Rockefeller College to obtain a space in the college to work.
There is no on-campus alternative to Cyclab that provides bicycle repair services. The USG is not currently working with either Cyclab or U-Bikes, although Sharp said there has been student interest in Cyclab’s revival.
“Cyclab was clearly a service that students liked to have. It was clearly a service that did a lot to the student body,” USG Social Chair Benedict Wagstaff ’14, who also worked on the USG’s biking initiatives, said. “It’s something we think is important for the campus to have. We plan to assist in any way we can."