20201014-LOC-GreenBikes

Marcus McCarroll of Keene rides his two-passenger, four-wheeled, pedal-powered vehicle down the bike path during the Monadnock Region Earth Day Festival in 2017. At the time, McCarroll was running Keene State College’s Green Bikes Program and was out promoting Keene Green Bikes, a free bike-sharing cooperative.

Keene State College’s Green Bikes Program has shifted to a student-run model, the last of the campus sustainability clubs to do so.

But while the college’s director of campus sustainability described several positive changes accompanying the shift, the program’s former coordinator questions its viability.

Created in 2002, Green Bikes allows students, staff and faculty to check out bicycles for up to an entire semester through Keene State’s library.

Unlike many other college bike programs, Keene State’s is completely free to use. The bicycles are donated by community members, and the college has about 100 available this year.

Though students always helped with Green Bikes, from 2005 up until this fall the program was run by Marcus McCarroll, an adjunct staff member who said his contract wasn’t renewed this past July.

The Keene resident said Tuesday he wishes the students the best of luck. In years past, however, he said students would get too busy with schoolwork and “forget” about the program.

“I’ll be surprised if the college students can make it run without a non-student coordinating everything,” said McCarroll, 61.

“I think it’s probably the end of the Green Bikes Program,” he added.

Cary Gaunt, Keene State’s campus sustainability director, said that along with her office’s efforts to increase student leadership, the shift was made because “students really identify with other students, and we think it will help improve the accessibility for student engagement.”

College spokeswoman Kelly Ricaurte also confirmed via email that “financial savings were a factor” in the shift and that McCarroll’s salary was higher than that of the Green Bikes Program’s new student leader.

In a previous email, Ricaurte said McCarroll is no longer an employee but declined to specify how his employment ended.

Looking ahead

The student-led model is nothing new for Keene State’s sustainability clubs. The campus’ ROCKS and Eco-Reps programs — a recycling group and a sustainability advocacy group, respectively — have had students in charge for years.

As for the Green Bikes Program, senior Matt Perkins has taken the helm for this academic year, according to Gaunt, who said his passion for the program is why staff felt it was a good year to try out student leadership. The hope is to continue the model in the coming years, she said.

Perkins still has help from staff members and two other students, she noted.

And the program has already undergone a few changes since he took the reins, she said.

Along with his student peers, he has created an online database to track the bikes when they are checked out. Before this, Gaunt explained, if a bike got lost or stolen, they were “just gone.”

“They are really taking us into the 21st century,” she said.

He has also helped clear out the program’s storage room, which Gaunt said had dozens of donated bikes that needed to be checked for usability.

Perkins, who also works at 365 Cycles in Keene, has “extensive knowledge” of bike repair. Gaunt said this helped him assess which bikes should be scrapped for parts, and which could simply be fixed.

“He cleaned that place out like I have never seen before,” she said.

Perkins wasn’t available for comment Tuesday.

Gaunt said the program is still using the ethics that McCarroll instilled, such as making sure the bikes remain free to use and that students are still repurposing bicycles and their parts.

Perkins and his student staff are also continuing to train new students and make sure bikes go through a safety checklist before being rented, according to Gaunt.

Moving forward, she added, the hope with the student-led model is to encourage more students to utilize and participate in the program.

“We are really proud of it,” she said.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.