URBANA – At the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana campus, there’s a bike rack within 150 feet of nearly every campus building. Altogether, these bike racks can accommodate at least 11,635 bicycles, as of October 2019.
However, nearly 1,000 bikes that are parked at these campus bike racks this summer haven’t been moved in weeks, according to Sarthak Prasad, who works at the Facilities & Services Department and manages Bike at Illinois.
As part of the university’s summer campus clean-up, these abandoned bikes will soon be relocated, inventoried and donated as part of a partnership between the Parking Department, the Facilities & Services Department and the Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign.
The Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign is a non-profit organization that offers a space for cyclists to learn about bike maintenance and share their knowledge. It has two locations: one in downtown Urbana and the other being the Campus Bike Center located on East Gregory Drive in Champaign.
Prasad said the Facilities & Services Department began tagging bikes with bright orange stickers in early June. They carry printed messages telling owners that they should remove the sticker by a certain date to avoid having their bike removed.
Prasad said it’s not uncommon for students to desert their bikes.
“Students, when they leave the campus at the end of the spring semester, they leave their bicycles on campus, which they shouldn’t,” Prasad said. “They should not leave it here because we want to reduce the number of abandoned bicycles.”
Prasad said this year’s bike clean-up is the first since 2019.
“In May 2020, it was the peak COVID time, so we didn’t do it then because the students had to leave abruptly, so we didn’t do it in 2020,” he said. “And same with 2021, students were not back, so we did not remove bicycles in 2021 either.”
After the Facilities & Services Department tags the bicycles, Prasad said the Parking Department cuts the bike locks and transports the bikes to storage.
“As part of the University Bicycle Ordinance, the Parking Department and sometimes the Public Safety Department are the only two departments on campus that can remove the bicycles – that can cut the lock of a bicycle,” he said. “Nobody else can do that.”
Now that all the abandoned bikes are tagged, Prasad said the bike sweep will begin the week of July 11. By July 22, he said the abandoned bikes will be stored at the round barns on St Marys Road in Urbana.
Prasad plans to inventory the bikes before classes start, and students will have until the second week of September to claim their bikes from the University. He said it’s helpful when students register their bikes with the University beforehand.
“If the bicycle was registered, we will directly contact the person who was the owner of that bicycle,” he said. “If the bicycle was not registered, we will still inventory those, and if somebody asks for that particular bicycle that was not registered, that student will have to register their bicycle on the spot before recovering it.
After the September cut-off, Prasad said any unclaimed bikes will be donated to the Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign.
“They will refurbish the bicycles, they will resell the bicycles, they will reuse them,” Prasad said. “For those bicycles that cannot be refurbished, resold or reused, they will recycle their parts.”
For those interested in learning more about the Bike Project of Urbana-Champaign, visit thebikeproject.org.