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Pine Island bike program gets pumped for summer

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The Borrow-A-Bike program in Pine Island offers free bike rentals on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer.
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PINE ISLAND — There are still tires to pump and brakes to pad for the volunteer mechanics for Pine Island's Borrow-A-Bike program.

Heading into its eighth year, the program, part of the city's parks department, lends bicycles to anyone in need of some wheels to enjoy the town or the Douglas Trail. The program will again open its doors beginning the first weekend in May through the last weekend in October.

Located at the old Butter Factory at Trail Head Park, right at the northern terminus of the Douglas Trail, the Borrow-A-Bike program is home to more than 70 bikes — all but four donated — that can be taken for a spin at no charge.

"We're proud of them," said Roy Larson, looking over the rows of bicycles. With children's bikes of all sizes, adult bikes, a couple of tandems, three-wheelers for those who lose their balance, and even a couple of child carriers, the program has a bike for just about any need. "They get people outside to enjoy the outdoors."

Larson and Jerry Vettel volunteer to maintain the bikes and remain on call during the summer weekdays for anyone needing a set of wheels for the trail. Sometimes, Vettel said, those requests can be a bit unique.

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"We had a lady from Holland," Vettel said. The woman, who was visiting her daughter who lived in Pine Island for the summer, was used to riding a bike everywhere. "We lent her a bike for the summer. That's what they use for transportation."

Borrowing a bike is simple, Vettel said. Anyone 18 or older can fill out a simple form that includes their drivers license number and other contact information. Those under 18 years of age need an adult to sign them out a bike. If anyone refuses a helmet, they need to sign a waiver.

All the bikes are numbered, so the number is logged along with the time in and out. On the weekends, the city hires teens who lend out the bikes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.

"Sometimes they leave us a donation," Larson said. "But it's not required."

Then the riders are on their way. "It's ideal with the trail so close," Larson said. He recalled a woman who decided she wanted to find her husband at the Pine Island Golf Course, which borders the Douglas Trail. "She never found him," he laughed. "She was having such a good time, she just kept going."

Many people have discovered the Borrow-A-Bike program and returned to ride again, often requesting a favorite bike, Vettel said.

With more than 70 bikes in service — and others in storage that need work — the program has a healthy number of bikes, Vettel said, but still gladly accepts new donations. After all, bikes wear out. When that happens, Vettel and Larson said they know a few people who like a project.

Then, there was the donation to Haiti after the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. The Borrow-A-Bike program donated several bikes toward several hundred that made their way to the island nation.

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"Since then, the same guy has come back looking for old bikes," Vettel said. "They don't care what shape they're in. I guess they cut the bikes up and make something new like rickshaws or food carts."

Over the years, Vettel and Larson have become adept at basic bicycle maintenance. Donated bikes come in all shapes, sizes and states of repair. Some need new tires, other some mechanical work. But some bikes show up in great shape.

"The people who donate them, the kids have all moved out and they're tired of all these bikes in their garage," Vettel said.

Now those bikes are just waiting on riders. "It'll get busy," Vettel said. "Once school's out and we have sunny days, nice days."

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Jerry Vettel, left, and Roy Larson fix the steering on a bike Monday, April 18, 2016, for the Borrow-A-Bike program in Pine Island.

Related Topics: PINE ISLAND
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