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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

UF students who want to fix a flat or mend faulty brakes might face a wait if they use Student Government's bicycle-repair program.

Service has been erratic while SG tries to hire more mechanics for the overworked program, said Will Dueease, a UF geomatics junior who also works as a SG bike mechanic.

In a small tent near the Reitz Union Colonnade steps, the service provides almost completely free bicycle care.

Students are charged if they need new inner tubes for their tires and must also supply any materials not in stock. Mechanics will attach new parts if students don't have the know-how.

Dueease said the fall semester has been more hectic than summer, when he first took the job. More than 100 people have received repairs in the last three days, and lines can reach 10 to 15 people, he said.

"Last Thursday and Friday, I didn't even want to come to work," he said.

Demand has slowed slightly, but the program is often left unstaffed while Dueease, who is taking 18 credits, is in class, he said.

Dueease said there is only one other mechanic who tries to work during Dueease's classes, but it doesn't always work out.

Dueease said the most common problems are flat tires and broken brakes, especially in cheap bicycles.

"A lot of people buy these ,45 Wal-Mart bikes," he said. "A guy came in today with a bike he had bought from Wal-Mart several hours before, and it wouldn't pedal."

While some problems can be fixed in a few minutes, more significant repairs can take up to 45.

"I don't want to do a crap job for somebody so even a line of six people can take me a long time" he said. "Some people have been irritated."

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Though no hours were posted for the service, a sign stated no service would be available during sixth period.

Sandy Vernon, SG office manager, said she hopes to hire two or three mechanics by Tuesday. After the hirings, service should be provided from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every weekday, Vernon said.

SG's bicycle service is one of its most popular and cost-efficient programs, she added.

In the 2007 fiscal year, SG spent about ,1,300 on the program, according to records.

Most of that money, ,980.16, was spent on a new sign and storage units, which won't need to be replaced for years.

During the 2006-2007 fiscal year, SG only spent an average of about ,175 on supplies.

Dueease said the service saves money on supplies by using parts stripped from donated bicycles.

Kevin Jones, chairman of the department of materials science and engineering, waited about 30 minutes for a mechanic to show up around 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Jones said he was trying to get a tire patched for his daughter, a UF junior who blew her back tire riding to class.

He said he was able to use his own biking experience to help about six or seven students.

"I fixed several bikes with minor problems, mostly low air," he said. "I was just screwin' around while I waited."

Despite the wait, the service was appreciated, he said.

"It's good of SG to put money into it because a lot of students have no other options," Jones said. "I just think it might need more staff or funding."

Joey Hunt, a UF musical theater senior, had been waiting about 35 minutes Wednesday afternoon when he was interviewed.

Hunt said his bicycle was not pedaling properly, but he didn't know the exact problem.

He said the wait was frustrating.

"I mean, the obvious, I just wish someone was here to fix it," Hunt said. "I guess that's why it's free. You get what you pay for."

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