LEBANON — With spring not too far off, Upper Valley residents are dusting off the bikes and preparing for evenings spent riding with friends or family. For many, biking is a way to feel free: Kids can pedal off for adventures with their friends, families can enjoy healthy fun together, and adults who may not have access to a car can still get themselves to appointments or work.
Bikes can be expensive to purchase and repair. That’s where the Community Bike Project comes in, with a team of volunteers who collect, repair, and donate bikes that would otherwise be bound for the landfill.
“Every kid should be able to enjoy the feeling of freedom and independence of riding a bike,” said Todd Chewning, owner, and operator of Cowbell mobile bike shop, who started the program. “For some adults, this is the only form of transportation.”
On Saturday, Chewning will be collecting bikes for the project from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at his workshop at 6 Crafts Ave. in West Lebanon. He is looking for child and adult bikes that are in repairable condition. Anyone interested in donating a bike can drop by on Saturday or contact Chewning at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange another time.
The idea for the Community Community Bike Project began in 2016 when Chewning started offering Earn-A-Bike classes in which where students attended eight hours of class learning how to repair bikes and then kept their bikes at the end.
Chewning realized that, in the Upper Valley, with limited public transportation, bikes can be a lifeline, especially for people in need. In 2018, he was contacted by the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Committee, which had secured a grant to fix up dumpster-bound bikes. He was able to repair and donate 15 bikes, and this year he hopes to give even more.
After the bikes are fixed up, they’re given to local nonprofits, including Upper Valley Haven, WISE, and the Special Needs Support Center, which distributes them to residents in need.
Chewning said the program has dual benefits for the community.
“It is important to the Upper Valley to first keep used bikes out of the landfill and second to provide reliable transportation to those in need, including children that cannot afford a bike,” he said.
Besides bike donations, Chewning is looking for more volunteers for the project, both mechanics and people who can help collect donations. The volunteer hours are reasonably light (Chewning estimates he put in 20 hours last year) but can make a lasting difference in Upper Valley residents’ lives.
“This is rewarding to me to help give someone a bike,” he said. “And during the fix-up party, it was nice to bond with other like-minded mechanics.”