Daniel Mastrobuono has to put the brakes on our interview. Another rush of Hastings College schoolmates just walked into the Bronco Bikes shop on campus, and the senior business major needs to get them rolling.
“I got through 40 bikes in the first two pickups and then about 35 in the last two days,” he says.
For a bike to move forward, all components – pedals, chain and gears – must be in sync. The same is true of Hastings College’s growing bike rental program, Bronco Bikes. Mastrobuono helps power the effort as the student mechanic.
“I like being around bikes; I like fixing bikes. That gives me energy,” he says.
Interested students, another key component, rent Bronco Bikes for a full school year – first come, first served. The $30 fee includes a lock, regular maintenance and minor repairs. This isn’t a bike-sharing program. Renters keep the bikes at their dorms or apartments. While pedaling to class or around town, they’re getting exercise, relieving campus parking congestion and giving the environment a breather.
“It started as a way to promote a greener kind of campus, a more environmentally friendly way of getting around,” says the Rev. Damen Heitmann, school chaplain, who has overseen the program since 2015.
Named after the Hastings College mascot, Bronco Bikes started with 10 to 15 bikes more than five years ago. The fleet has grown steadily, thanks, in part, to grant support from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, a three-year partner.
“One of the biggest things we’ve been able to do with those funds is purchase new bikes,” Heitmann says. “The newer the bike, the less maintenance we have to do on it. That saves us time and resources.”
Mastrobuono, who is from Parker, Colorado, says he caught the cycling bug “pretty bad” about a year ago. When the opportunity to work at Bronco Bikes opened up last spring, he jumped on it. He balances the part-time work with a full course load and a spot on the varsity golf team.
“I like being busy,” he says. And he certainly was at the start of the school year, putting in 15 to 20 hours a week facilitating bike check-outs. That will settle to a few hours a week as his duties shift to maintenance.
“If they have an issue like a flat tire, I’ll come to wherever their bike is,” Mastrobuono says. “They don’t have to worry about getting a broken bike across campus.”
Sophomore Taylor Lipinski, one of dozens of Bronco Bike renters, has participated in the program both of her years at Hastings College.
“I’m from Chicago,” she says. “Dragging a bike out here would have been a big deal.”
Not only does the program ease her move and trip to class, she says she’s also earning points with her mother: “She’s very big on helping the environment. She loves the fact that I’m saving gas and not burning those emissions. She loves that it’s helping me exercise as well.”
Mastrobuono also sees plenty of personal benefit. He’s meeting a lot of people and getting great work experience.
“Managing a bike rental operation is a pretty cool thing to be able to put on my resume,” especially for a business major who wants to handle project management for a bike company after graduation.
Most of all, he takes pride in moving the program – and his schoolmates – forward.
“I walk past a lot of bike racks that are full of Bronco Bikes, and it’s great knowing that I helped get that bike on the road; I helped that person get to class on time today.