UCI News

Repo man

Kevin Ansel steers campuswide effort to rescue bikes for the homeless

by Kathryn Bold | March 5, 2006
Repo man

Two years ago, Kevin Ansel noticed a lot of bicycles wasting away on campus, their seats rotting in the sun as they stood tethered to bike racks. When students leave UCI, they sometimes abandon their bikes – believing it’s not worth the effort to haul them home. Ansel, UCI’s interim director of student affairs IT strategic planning and an avid cyclist who logged 3,400 miles on his bike last year, couldn’t bear the thought of perfectly good bikes being discarded.

“These bikes were going to waste, and I knew people could use them,” he says. In September 2004, Ansel had an idea to refurbish the abandoned bikes and giving them to the homeless. His one-man repo effort has turned into a campuswide campaign to recycle cycles.

Through the Bicycle Donation Program, the campus has donated 85 bikes – complete with new helmets and locks – to the Shelter for the Homeless in Midway City and Olive Crest Homes and Services for Abused Children in Santa Ana.

“My original idea of doing one bike a month exploded,” Ansel says.

Parking and Transportation provides the discarded bikes after a 90-day holding period, the UCI Volunteer Center steers students to the program to help clean up the bicycles, and Student Affairs has chipped in $3,500 for helmets and parts. Nancy Chen Lane, complex coordinator for Mesa Court Housing, organizes quarterly bike clean-up days, where students help change tires, mend seats and clean rusted frames. The bikes give those who may have lost their driver’s license or can’t afford bus fare a way to get to work.

While Ansel could travel to his job at UCI by car, he bikes the 11-mile round trip from his Irvine home. His wife, Ximena, apartment assignments supervisor for Verano Place Housing, also bikes to campus.

“We bike pool,” he says. “We’re passionate about cycling.”

Not that he’s obsessed, but Ansel has used a computer program to track his cycling stats for the last 22 years, including average annual miles (2,700), average speed  per ride (13.9 miles per hour) and number of calories burned (2.7 million, give or take a few). Longest ride: “From here to New York City.”

“Bicycling has been so important to me,” Ansel says. “I felt I needed to give back.”