INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - A program that provides free bikes to the needy in Indian River County is expanding, installing bike repair stations so the public will have free places to work on their bikes.

The repair stations provide access to work on one's bicycle, including necessary tools like tire levers for flat repairs, wrenches, and a pump to inflate the tires. Each unit has a built in fork for holding the bike up off the ground while working on the bike.

The first two bike repair stations were recently installed in Gifford. The non-profit behind the effort, Bike Walk Indian River County, is hard at work preparing additional stations.

“Very shortly we will have bike repair stations at the main transit hub for Go Line on 17th St., Pocahontas Park, Riverview Park in Sebastian, and near the new Sebastian Rail Trail,” Malcolm Allen, the owner of Orchid Island Bikes & Kayaks, told Hometown News. “These have all been purchased and have arrived, only waiting for us at OIBK to have a spare minute to assemble, decal and install.”

The stations were sponsored by BWIRC, Orchid Island Bikes & Kayaks, Live Like Cole Foundation, Dyer Auto Group, People for Bikes, and Vero Cycling Club. Each station costs between $1,800 and $2,500, and then volunteers handle the installation.

“The idea stemmed from a BWIRC cycling safety class and rehab bike distribution,” Mr. Allen said. “Hugh Aaron, the president of Bike Walk Indian River County, was teaching the class and got to the part about how to maintain your bike and pump up the tires. The class was for six youth in the community and one of them asked where they could go to inflate tires and work on their bikes. Hugh realized they had no access to a pump or tools.”

Although many people in Gifford rely on bikes for transportation, there was no public place to pump up tires or make minor bike repairs.

“It is something most of us never think about, but it was a real obstacle for them,” said BWIRC secretary Laura Aaron. “Fortunately, we could help. So we selected locations that we thought would be most helpful to the people who need these tools to keep their bikes rolling.”

“We began soliciting donations and purchased two that are currently installed in Gifford,” Mr. Allen said. “From there, we began scouting for more locations.”

The staff of Gifford Youth Achievement Center was thrilled.

“This bike repair station is vital to the citizens of Gifford and we are thrilled to have one of the two bike pads donated to Gifford located on our campus,” said Christina Tascon, GYAC Marketing Coordinator. “Not only is this a much-needed utility for the community but we hope to build on this station to teach our students about bicycle safety and proper maintenance of their bikes.”

The genesis of the program was actually a request for assistance eight years ago from Indian River County Sheriff’s Deputy Teddy Floyd.

“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 Red Ledford got them back in working order.”

After the formation of Bike Walk Indian River County, Hugh Aaron 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. Once we rolled the program into BWIRC, we began a regularly scheduled evening of rehabbing bikes at OIBK after hours under the supervision of Red Ledford.”

Volunteers refurbish up to 40 bikes in one night, and they are stored in warehouse space donated by United Against Poverty.

“The bikes are all donated by members of the community,” Mr. Allen said. “We get about 6-12 dropped off every week at OIBK, and Teddy has his generous sources for bike donations. The Town of Orchid held a bike drive and in one day we picked up about 25 bikes.”

With the help of UP and GYAC, an application was developed for people to apply for bikes. So far, all children who applied for a bike have received one.

The children who receive the bikes then own them. BWIRC asks them to return the bikes as they outgrow them, or if they no longer use them, so they may be given to others.

If the group was to give away bikes, the volunteers knew they had to also give away helmets.

“The helmets were a no-brainer, as cycling safety advocates,” Mr. Allen said. “We raised funds to purchase helmets that were given to the bike recipient. We then discovered a program run by the State of Florida that would provide us with free helmets, so we now get the helmets free. We encourage every adult receiving a bike from us to accept and use the helmets and we automatically provide them to all children receiving a bike.”

BWIRC holds monthly bicycle safety classes at United Against Poverty. When the class is over, the students receive a bike, helmet, and a set of lights if they need them for night travel.

BWIRC is a cycling and pedestrian advocacy group that is run by volunteers. In addition to the free bikes, helmets, and repair stations, the group provides recommendations to improve infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians.

To contribute bikes or funds, or to volunteer to work on fixing the bikes or distribution, contact Malcolm Allen at (772) 299-1286 or through www.bikewalkirc.org.

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