INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — If a bike rehabilitation project doesn’t receive long term storage for their 200 plus bicycles soon, the program along with its safety classes and free bikes to those in need could be shut down altogether.
The Bike Rehab Project partners with United Against Poverty (UP) to teach bike safety classes and uses the nonprofit’s warehouse for storage, said Co-founder Malcolm Allen, 54, Vero Beach. But, since UP’s lease has expired, the bike organizers were told they had to vacate the warehouse and that there would be no room to store bikes at UP’s new facility.
“Not having a permanent facility is what’s threatening the program. We have an abundance of bikes and not enough space to store them.” Allen said. “We’ve reached out to local non profits, businesses and government agencies to see if anyone has space for (our) bikes. It has been unsuccessful so far.”
Allen said that organizers need a central location where they can store bikes and teach classes.
“We definitely want to keep the program active. We’ll fight tooth and nail to accomplish it,” said Ida Lawes, UP employee and intake coordinator for the bike project. “We have to be creative in how we’re going to move forward with the setbacks.”
Organizers for the Bike Rehab Project are using a temporary warehouse in the meantime to store the bikes. The 900-square-foot warehouse is located behind Orchid Island Bikes & Kayaks, a business which Allen owns.
“We’re currently in the temporary warehouse free of charge, but the landlord at any time could tell us to move out because a new business is moving in,” Allen said. “Our landlord is not forcing us out. The landlord is allowing us to stay until we find a permanent location.”
The Bike Rehab Project was created eight years ago by Allen and Indian River County sheriff’s Deputy Teddy Floyd. At the end of the classes, the participants receive a free bike, Allen said.
“This is a tremendously valuable resource for people in the community. We’re proud of our partnership with The Bike Rehab Project,” UP Executive Director Annabel Robertson said. “Our staff will continue to do program intake. We’re supporting them to find funds to locate a (permanent) warehouse.”
The bikes for the program are donated by community members and the Sebastian Police Department, Allen said. The Bike Rehab Project is part of Bike Walk Indian River County, Inc., a non-profit coalition of community volunteers.
Bike organizers – with the blessings of UP – stored more than 200 bikes for free at UP’s warehouse across the street from its campus, located at 2746 U.S. 1, Allen said. Even though bike project organizers were able to find a temporary warehouse for storage, the space could be taken from them at any moment, Allen said.
“I think this is something the community should get behind,” Robertson said.
Allen said The Bike Rehab Project was exploring the idea of renting out the warehouse. But, Allen also said the program is made up of volunteers and is not a fundraising group.
“We would have to raise $25,000 to $35,000 a year to stay at the warehouse,” Allen said.
For now, the bike project organizers are still teaching classes at UP’s facility. A date for when UP will officially relocate was not yet set.
Anybody can take the bike safety classes, but the free bikes are strictly for those in need, Allen said.
The classes are taught by members of Vero Cycling Club. All instructors are certified by League of American Cyclists, Allen said.
Allen said about 10 to 20 bikes, including for children and adults, are given away each month. Bike project organizers have given away more than 600 bicycles over the last two years and more than 3,000 bicycles since the program’s inception, Allen said.
“I believe in the mission of the program,” Allen said. “It’s one of the many ways we give back to the community.”
Those who want more information on the bike project can call Orchid Island Bikes & Kayaks at 772-299-1286.