It’s a problem seen on college campuses everywhere—rusty, abandoned bicycles cluttering the bike racks, long after students have gone home for the summer or graduated. In the past, unclaimed bikes at CUC were brought to the Physical Plant scrap metal pile for recycling, but this year, graduate student Matthew Coughlin had a different idea. When he saw the old, forgotten bikes chained up outside Geiseman Gymnasium, he contacted CUC Director of Public Safety Dave Witken about donating them to Working Bikes, a nonprofit where Coughlin volunteers.

Working Bikes is an organization that collects, fixes up and donates thousands of bicycles every year to countries throughout Africa and Central America, as well as to local communities in need. They also run a storefront and full-service repair shop in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago.

“I started volunteering at Working Bikes in 2019, learning to refurbish old bicycles while learning about my own,” Coughlin says. “They will teach you for free how to repair bikes and then, with the hours you volunteer, you can purchase one of their refurbished bikes.”

As the end of the academic year approached, Witken sent an email out to all students, faculty and staff, alerting them that unclaimed bikes would be donated over the summer. In early June, Working Bikes brought their truck to campus to pick up CUC’s donation. 

“These bikes had been abandoned for two-plus years, or donated to the Department of Public Safety from the email inquiry to clear the bike racks,” says Witken. In the fall, Witken and Coughlin hope to do another round of donations to Working Bikes with any remaining unclaimed bicycles at the end of the semester.

Coughlin is pursuing the MAT in secondary education-history at Concordia-Chicago, and works as a graduate assistant in the Academic Center for Excellence. This summer, he rode his bike 100 miles in Le Tour de Shore, a charity bike ride to benefit Maywood Fine Arts.