Cycle-Recycle program offers free bicycles today

Sunday, May 13, 2007 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 1:19 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Columbians looking to increase their speed have a chance to get their own wheels today.

Today marks the sixth annual Cycle-Recycle, an event that has found new homes for more than 600 donated and refurbished bicycles. The event is designed to provide bicycles to adults and children who might not otherwise be able to acquire them. It is one of the flagship events for Columbia’s sixth annual Bike, Walk and Wheel Week, a series of programs and events encouraging citizens to get out of their cars and get active by walking and cycling.

“We find that when people get out on their bicycles and start walking, they discover how much fun it is and keep at it,” said Mayor Darwin Hindman at the Bike, Walk and Wheel Week Kick Off Celebration on Saturday in Flat Branch Park.

PedNet Coalition Executive Director Ian Thomas is expecting between 80 to 100 bicycles at today’s giveaway.

“We have more than 60 already delivered and are anticipating more donations over the weekend,” Thomas said. “We have a mixture of children’s and adult bikes, with a majority of adult bikes so far.”

Those interested in donating gently used adult or children’s bicycles can drop them off today at the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, 1005 W. Worley St., between 9 a.m. and noon.

Vouchers for the refurbished bicycles will be distributed at 1 p.m., and participants will get to choose their bike on a first-come, first-served basis. “The goal of the event is to get bikes to people who would have difficulty affording them, but we won’t be turning anyone away as long as we still have bikes left,” Thomas said.

Volunteers from PedNet, Cyclextreme, Walt’s Bike Shop, Klunk’s and Jim’s Bike & Key will be performing safety checks, making basic repairs and adjusting the donated bicycles to fit their new owners. All the bicycles will come with a complimentary helmet donated by Safe Kids Columbia.

“Volunteers will be assisting people to choose a bicycle that meets their needs,” Thomas said.

In addition to the bicycle giveaway, there will also be a skills course for children to test their cycling prowess before hitting the streets on their new rides. Each participant will be given a card to fill out at the stations, culminating in a pass to Empire Roller Rink.

Children will have the opportunity to practice looking over their shoulder without swerving on a marked course, challenge their fellow cyclists in the slow bike race without taking their feet off the pedals and get quizzed on bicycle safety.

“We want to make sure that kids and adults know the rules of the road before they get out in traffic,” Thomas said.

Bike licensing will be available from the Columbia Fire Department barring an emergency call.

Bicycle safety checks, mandatory for the donated bikes, are a good idea for all fair weather cyclists looking to drag their bikes out of winter hibernation from the garage.

“A good safety check is to pick up the front end of the bike and let it loose in a controlled drop,” said Karl Kimbel, owner of Klunk Bicycles and Repair, who will be on hand for Cycle-Recycle. “Unless it’s an old bike with fenders or a basket, you shouldn’t hear any rattling or feel any wobbling. You’ll also want to give the brakes a good squeeze to make sure they are gripping the tire.”

Once the bike passes the safety check, the cyclist needs to check that he or she has the proper equipment to be safe on the bike.

“At a minimum, we’re talking a helmet and a front and back blinking light if you ever plan on riding in the evenings,” said Kimbel. Those that have long-term plans for commuting on their bikes may want to invest in fenders and baskets to ease the ride.

“The most common problems that we see in the shop after prolonged storage are deflated tires, worn cables and housing and degrading brake pads,” said Kimbel. “You should check the condition of everything made of rubber.”

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