Bike (Un)Co-operative

7 May 2019

Despite the new cohort of office bearers (OBs), the Parkville campus’ bike co-op has yet to reopen. Over a year and a half since its supposed relocation, both current and previous Environment OBs allege University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) bureaucracy is behind the delay.

The co-op was originally housed in the John Smyth Building, but was forced to move after the building was demolished in late 2017. The co-op was allocated a space on the ground floor of Union House, which has still not been set up. A number of signs reading “Bike Co-Op Opening Soon” have been hung around the space since February 2018, but an official date for such opening has yet to be confirmed.

This year’s Environment OB Will Ross told Farrago last month, “It’s looking like we might have the co-op running by the start of Semester 1 [2019].” However, the bike co- op space in Union House remains unchanged. “O-Week has definitely [put] it on the backburner,” Ross since told Farrago. However, he remains confident the reopening is going to happen in the near future.

2018 Environment OBs Callum Simpson and Lucy Turton blame UMSU bureaucracy for the bike co-op’s delayed reopening. When they came into office, the pair claim to have been told by both UMSU staff and their predecessor Kate Denver-Stevenson that UMSU would assume responsibility for funding the co-op. As a result, Simpson and Turton did not allocate the co-op money in their Enviro budget for the year. However, when the 2018 UMSU budget was announced, no provision for the bike co-op had been included.

Without funding, little progress was able to be made on the reopening. Turton claim both she and Simpson continually approached UMSU staff, but were constantly told they were too busy setting up the Ida Bar or just waiting on one more thing to get the co-op up and running again.

Farrago reached out to UMSU staff involved with the re-opening of the bike co-op for comment. These individuals declined and redirected comment to UMSU President, Molly Willmott.

Willmott told Farrago that she anticipates the bike co-op will be open by the end of Semester 1. “There were a lot of considerations that had to be made in the planning and rollout of the co-op that has providing out was the best possible, while also keeping the cooperative values of the project,” she said.

Simpson described the process of trying to re-open the co-op as one of heavy frustration and disappointment. “In the end, [the bike co-op] just became associated with stress and feeling letdown,” he said.

Students too are feeling frustrated by the delay in the co-op’s reopening. “Every week we get messages, multiple messages, to the bike co-op [Facebook] page… asking where the co-op is,” Ross claims. Some of such messages to the page include:

“Hi, just wondering if the bike co-op is continuing into 2019? I am very interested in getting involved if there are still efforts being made to get it off the ground, thanks [sic]”.

“Hey, just wondering if you guys still exist or are planning to return? Appreciate your help in the past”.

“I just emailed [UMSU staff] saying how helpful the bike co-op has been etc. and asked how it’s looking for its return”.

According to Turton, the situation with the bike co-op is part of a larger problem. “It’s systematic of broader problems within UMSU in terms of what gets prioritised and what doesn’t,” she said. “It’s just [sic] a problem that I think a lot of Enviro and other activist departments seems to have… [which] is not being taken as seriously”. Simpson also added, “the [UMSU] staff need to become better at listening to student representatives… not just continue to run the same services they’ve been running for decades”.

In the 2019 UMSU budget, money has been set aside for “seed funding” under which the bike co-op has been named as a possible project.

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