For some high school students in Laramie, access to a bike is a necessary component to be able to attend school, hold down a job or even complete mandatory community service.
A new bike library at Whiting High School, dubbed the Ugly Bike Library, offers freedom, reliable transportation and a chance to learn new skills.
“We call it the Ugly Bike Library because they’re all pretty beat up and ugly, which is like a security tool,” joked special education teacher Truman Solverud. “They don’t tend to walk off from here.”
Solverud started the bike library last spring when he noticed that some students at the alternative high school didn’t have a way to leave campus to grab lunch or sometimes even get to school or work. Much like a book library lends books, a bike library lends bikes for students to use during the day.
To start the collection, Solverud bought a few bikes and received a few donations. The Cathedral Home for Children donated five bikes students there had fixed up. Laramie BikeNet donated helmets, and they were in business.
This fall, Solverud expanded the collection so physical education classes could use them for outdoor exercise. He also bought a few tools so students could maintain their fleet and fix up new additions. Pedal House owner Dewey Gallegos spent a day teaching some repair basics as part of a workforce readiness class.
“It all comes down to removing barriers for kids, like to be able to get to school,” Solverud said. “That has turned out to be quite a frequent barrier.”
Freshman Gabe Myers, who rides his personal bike to school almost every day, even during the winter, started learning bike maintenance skills with help from Gallegos. He also watches YouTube videos and teaches himself.
“Truman will go pick bikes up, and we’ll fix them up,” he said.
Solverud said the bike library offers a student like Myers extra motivation to pursue a passion during the school day.
“It provides an incentive to come to school and learn some skills that are something he’s interested in,” he said.
Myers said having access to a bike also motivates him to spend time outside, meet up with friends and have some independence.
“You don’t have to have the nicest rig or the newest, greatest thing,” he said.
The Whiting fleet is now big enough that Solverud is able to take in donations and then turn around and donate fixed-up bikes to current students, former students and other community members who need a permanent mode of transportation.
“Pretty much anybody that’s in need, if they approach us we’ll find some way to help them,” he said.