Have spokes, will travel: Bike program takes off
By Andrew Farquharson ’17
Walk around campus on any given day and you’re almost guaranteed to see someone riding by on a bicycle. More often than not, that bicycle comes from Paul Cardoza and the bicycle loan program.
Since being hired in 2008 as health educator, Cardoza has gained the respect and admiration of faculty and students alike. But he is quick to point out that without the help of some key people on campus the bike program wouldn’t be possible.
“When I came on as health educator I wanted to start a bike program, and Sister Leona Misto said, ‘Do you know there are bikes down in McAuley? Go see Ray McKenna,'” Cardoza recalled. “Sister Therese supported that and said, ‘What can you do with those bikes?’ So I called Ray, and he took me down there, and we realized these bikes can be fixed up, so we decided to do it.'”
Out of the nearly 40 bikes that were stored, Cardoza and McKenna, a supervisor in the Office of Safety and Security, were able to get 18 up and running in the first year.
“There are all sorts of models, sophisticated ones like the Citi Bike, or the European model, but we didn’t have the money for that,” Cardoza said. “It was more ‘let’s just do it,’ the typical Salve philosophy. If it’s a good thing to do, let’s just do it.”
Cardoza speaks humbly about his role in the program, which he ran after his regular office hours at Salve Regina at no extra cost to the school. “Numbers aren’t important; my heart’s with Salve,” he said. “I was already being paid full time. I’m an educator and that’s what I love, seeing those kids on the bikes.”
The program spread mainly through word of mouth and students were immediately interested. Only a year later, in 2009, Cardoza and McKenna realized they needed more bikes. After putting the word out, some faculty members donated bikes. Cardoza also found out through a local police officer that the Newport Police Department keeps confiscated bikes stored at a local yard.
“I called over to the yard and they said ‘come on down, we have bikes,'” Cardoza said. “From then on our program has received about 12 bikes a year from the Newport Police yard. We might get one choice bike out of the dozen, but the rest need repairs. No problem; that’s what we do.”
Since its humble beginnings, support for the program has exploded, offering 80 to 90 bikes per semester at absolutely no cost to students. Cardoza has been allotted a work-study student, the Student Government Association has purchased two bikes for the program, graduating seniors donate their personal bikes and Student Activities now provides the program with $2,000 in funding every year.
And the bottom line is the whole program has cost Salve Regina less than $10,000.
With spring just around the corner, the program has an inventory of some 130 bikes. Though only 80 or 90 are roadworthy, the rest are in the process of being rebuilt or are used for parts.
About a dozen bikes go to international students in the summer months when they arrive. One such student is Sinan Zeino ’16. Zeino is originally from Syria, here because his university back home was destroyed in the fighting.
“I was really excited to hear about the bike program,” Zeino said. “Having a bike in Newport was even better than having a fancy car, especially in the summer. With your bike you can go anywhere in Newport and you don’t have to worry about traffic or a parking spot. Paul is a great, helpful man. He’s always making sure I’m okay and is quick to make sure my bike is always in riding condition.”
Zeino is currently on his fourth bike.
Athletes are also quick to ask for bikes during preseason, but there is a shortage of bikes for some of the bigger players. “We can always use more 27-inch frames,” Cardoza said. “Some of the bigger football players want bikes but I can’t give them one because we just don’t have frame sizes for them. If they were given smaller ones the bikes would be warped within a few weeks.”
Cardoza says the future of the program is bright. He’s also quick to point out that the bike shop itself is open to students. “We really want students to know this is a student bike shop,” he said. “If you’ve got your own bike we do it all, from new tires to new tubes. If your bike needs repair, you’re going to get it done here for nothing.”
In the future, Cardoza hopes to phase out some of the older bikes and replace them with newer ones. The bike program is always open to donations, whether it’s bikes or chains and locks. “I hope to be able to eliminate the [program] waiting list all together, and I think we’ll get there,” he said.
Any student interested in reserving a bike for either the fall or spring semester may contact Cardoza at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by the basement of Wakehurst on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.