on the Menu at this Smith Kitchen
A dozen students wander down to Ainsworth Gym on a recent
early spring day warmed by the sun. Some bring their bikes,
others shop for wheels to rent.
“This bike is a winner,” says Ottilia Schafer ’10
to a student examining one of more than three dozen bikes
hanging on hooks in a space tucked in the basement of Ainsworth.
Boxes of bike helmets line one wall while rows of tires loop
in bunches on the other, with piles of extra tubes and bike
tools littered about. A steady stream of students lugging
bikes up and down two flights to the outside keeps the stairwell
This is the Bike Kitchen, a student-run rental program that
offers more than 40 bicycles for rent to Smith students for
the bargain-basement fee of $15 per semester. Students who
own bikes are also encouraged to drop by any Friday between
4 and 6 p.m. to repair, tune up, or learn how to work on
Elisabeth Wolfe ’10,
who runs the Bike Kitchen, supervises as her volunteer
helpers assist student customers in locating the right
bike and making sure their tires are inflated properly,
their chains greased.
For Wolfe, bikes are a way of life. She rides everywhere
and she wants to make it easier for others to do so. The
Bike Kitchen is only one way for her to apply her deep interest
in environmental responsibility.
“I bike all the time,” said Wolfe. “I
fell in love with bikes in high school.”
That is why, in part,
she took over coordination last year of Smith’s Bike
Kitchen. The organization operates with
funds from the Student Government Association and has grown
considerably under Wolfe’s supervision.
She has more than tripled the fleet, moved it from the Boat
House to Ainsworth, and hopes to expand the rental service
to alumnae during May’s reunion weekends.
“We have the capacity to become something bigger,” said
Wolfe. “I want to make bikes accessible to people who
don’t necessarily have bikes—to provide more
bikes so people don’t feel they have to bring their
cars to campus.”
The concept of bikes as
environmentally friendly transportation fits well with
Wolfe’s self-designed major of environmental
biology and sustainable development. She hopes to provide
people with the skills and practical knowledge to carry sustainability
theories forward, and incorporate them into their lives.
“I’m very invested in grassroots progress that
will help people apply in practical ways the theories they
learn in the classroom,” she said.
In addition to biking,
Wolfe manages the Smith Community Garden, a series of plots
near Smith’s Center for Early
Childhood Education now in its second season. The garden
grows a variety of edible plants for consumption by the Smith
But it’s biking
and its advocacy that occupies much of her time, especially
during the warming season.
For those visiting the
Bike Kitchen on warm spring afternoons, Wolfe’s efforts
“I’ve been to the Bike Kitchen a lot for tune-ups
and help working on my bike,” said Sarah Carlton ’12,
a Cushing House resident who swung by to prepare for a ride
around town. “I think this is a great resource.”
That is the desired outcome.
“I came here looking for people who like biking as
much as I do,” said Wolfe. More and more, they are
going to the Bike Kitchen.