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Pa. shop to sell cheap bikes for city transport

April 10, 2014
Associated Press

LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) — A program intended to refurbish old, unused bicycles and get people riding them, is also returning an old Lancaster city building to use.

The Common Wheel, a newly formed non-profit group, plans to open a community bike shop next month.

The group intends to repair and refurbish donated bicycles and sell them at a low cost. The shop will also provide space and tools for people who want to work on bikes and teach workshops about bike repair.

The shop will be located in a long-closed pump house in the city's Reservoir Park, on East King Street near Broad Street.

Renovations began this week. An opening of the shop is planned for May 31, said Common Wheel organizers Chris Caldwell and Brad Copeland.

The two have visited community bike shops in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. There disused bicycles are returned to active use and urban cycling is encouraged as a form of healthy, low-cost transportation.

Unlike commercial bike shops, Common Wheel will not sell new bicycles.

Most refurbished children's bikes will be sold for $50-$100. Adult bikes will mostly sell for $100-$200, Copeland said.

Integral to the Common Wheel's mission will be an earn-a-bike program for children. Although the details have not been finalized, Caldwell said participating children ages 13 and older will be allowed to choose a donated bike. They will spend 20 hours or more over several weeks rebuilding the bike and learning to care for it.

Adults with little or no money will also be allowed to receive a bike in exchange for volunteer hours, Caldwell said.

The two, who will be the only employees, plan to hold workshops most evenings.

Some evenings will have a particular focus, such as fixing a flat tire or adjusting shift or brake cables.

One evening a week will be a women-only "ladies night."

Copeland said they hope to "take the intimidation factor" out of bike repair for novices.

The park location will also allow children to learn to ride there. Caldwell and Copeland also plan to lead adult rides from the park to familiarize new cyclists with riding on city streets.

They have received about a dozen donated bikes and hope to begin accepting more after the shop is renovated and operating.

They have also spoken to city officials about receiving bikes collected by city police. The bicycles are often abandoned or stolen and go unclaimed.

Those bikes, some 30 or more a year, are now sold at auction and provide little revenue to the city.

The nine-member Common Wheel board of directors recently began a fund-raising campaign. The group hopes to receive $15,000 to help start the program.

Caldwell said they have already received more than $3,000.

The new organization has received a $1,000 grant from Quality Bicycle Products, the national distributor of bicycle parts and equipment which is building a new facility in East Hempfield Township.

The grant allows Common Wheel to buy that amount of tools and supplies at wholesale prices, Copeland said.

The organization also plans to buy items from QBP to be sold in a same retail area of the shop.

They plan to offer racks, bags lights, locks and helmets and other items bicycle riders need.

"There are not too many people that cater to the city rider," Caldwell said of area shops.

The circa-1918 building, where water levels were monitored and pumps housed, was closed after the city reservoir was closed there in the 1950s, said Charlotte Katzenmoyer, the city public works director. Gauges still adorn the walls.

It was piled with sinks, roofing materials and other items being stored there behind boarded windows, she said.

Katzenmoyer has long wanted to find a use for the building.

"Part of the parks master plan is to get more uses within our parks," she said. "When neighbors see the park used, then they'll want to use the park, and more use means less vandalism."

She called the Common Wheel a case of perfect timing. Reservoir Park is soon slated to undergo renovation. At the same time, the city is considering ways to promote bicycling for transportation.

PPL employees are slated to be in the park for a community service day later this month. They will paint the exterior of the building and do other chores to mark Earth Day, Katzenmoyer said. The interior renovation of the 1,100-square-foot space will be done by Common Wheel.

The group will use about two-thirds of the building space, Caldwell said.

A portion of the shop's profits will go to the city in lieu of lease payments, Katzenmoyer said.

"It's a good effort at this time to bring more awareness of biking in the city," she said.




Information from: Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era ,



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