VERO BEACH - An innovative program that distributes free bikes to adults and children is in danger due to lack of warehouse space.

The Bike Rehab Project was started about eight years ago by Malcolm Allen, owner of Orchid Island Bikes and Kayaks, and Deputy Teddy Floyd from the Sheriff’s Office.

“Deputy Floyd approached me and asked for a quote to repair a bunch of kids’ bikes that were donated to him that he wanted to give out to needy kids at Christmas,” Mr. Allen said. “I told him OIBK would cover 100% of the cost for the repairs. Thus began an annual tradition of Teddy bringing bikes and then handing them out after our lead bike technician got them back in working order.”

After the formation of Bike Walk Indian River County, Hugh Aaron, the organization’s president, approached Mr. Allen about helping adults as well.

“While Teddy's and my focus was on kids’ bikes, BWIRC has taken that focus to include adult bikes for those needing them to get to school or work,” Mr. Allen said. “Once we rolled the program into BWIRC, we began a regularly scheduled evening of rehabbing bikes at OIBK after hours.”

BWIRC collects donated bikes, rehabs those bikes using volunteer bike mechanics, and distributes the bikes, along with helmets, to people in the community who need reliable transportation to get to work or school. “We also rehab and distribute children’s bikes and helmets through the Gifford Youth Achievement Center, the Sheriff’s Office and other local child services organizations,” Mr. Aaron said.

“We currently rehab and distribute about 400 bikes and helmets a year. We also provide locks and lights. Most of our bike recipients also receive safety training taught by a credentialed League Cycling Instructor. The training focuses on teaching people the rules of the road as they apply to bicycles, and techniques for riding safely in an urban environment.”

The Bike Rehab Project was recognized as the Program of the Year by the Florida Bicycle Association.

Until now, the group has used donated warehouse and classroom space from United Against Poverty. “However, UP is in the process of moving,” Mr. Aaron said. “Unfortunately, they are not able to continue to provide us with warehouse space.”

To keep the free bike program going, the group is looking for warehouse space.

“If we don’t get warehouse space, the program is dead,” Mr. Aaron said. “At this point I’m just trying to save the program. In our area, if you don’t have transportation, you are economically in trouble. With a bike, they can get to work and hold a job, be a reliable employee. We’re focused on people who need a little bit of help to get themselves back on track.”

The group keeps a revolving inventory of about 200 bikes. To maintain inventory at that level, they need about 1,500 square feet of warehouse space.

“We could pare that inventory back a bit, to deal with less space,” Mr. Aaron said. “With our current inventory, we have been using about 1,500 square feet, which would be great, but we could do with less if we needed to. We’d have to be more efficient in terms of which bikes we accept, and turning those bikes over.”

“We’ve never had air-conditioned space, so while that would be great, it’s not necessary. Our volunteers don’t mind sweating.”

While size and air conditioning are not critical, the location is.

“We need a place where our clients, the people who receive these bikes, can come and get fitted and pick up their bike,” Mr. Aaron said. “That is what was so nice about our old donated warehouse space at UP. Since we lost that space, we’ve been transporting the bikes around, and that doesn’t work as well.”

If you know of warehouse space that the group could use, contact Malcolm Allen at Orchid Island Bikes and Kayaks, (772) 299-1286, malcolm@orchidislandbikesandkayaks.com.

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