Ken Williamson, of Red Deer’s Optimist Bikes for Kids program, fine tunes another donated bike. The group has a lengthy waiting list and needs more donations of bikes of all kinds in good condition. (Photo contributed)

Ken Williamson, of Red Deer’s Optimist Bikes for Kids program, fine tunes another donated bike. The group has a lengthy waiting list and needs more donations of bikes of all kinds in good condition. (Photo contributed)

Bike donation group running short of rides

Optimist Bikes for Kids has a waiting list and welcomes good donated bikes

If you have a used bicycle or two sitting in your garage, a dedicated group of volunteers who donate bikes to those in need of wheels wants to hear from you.

“We have a waiting list of about 30 people,” said Ken Williamson, who has been running the Optimist Bikes for Kids program for more than 20 years.

Williamson and a half dozen other volunteers who know their way around derailleurs, cranks and shifters spend hours fine-tuning donated bicycles into roadworthy rides. They work out of the basement of a local senior’s living residence.

Many of those who come looking for bicycles are new immigrants, including recent arrivals from Ukraine, who fled the ongoing war there. School counsellors will also point students who don’t have a bike in the group’s direction.

Unfortunately, demand is outstripping supply. “We don’t have many bikes to give out,” said Williamson on Friday.

“As much as anything, we need good bikes to fix. There are lots of bicycles in people’s garages for five to 10 years and they don’t know what to do with them.”

Williamson and the other bike mechanics do cannibalize some bikes for parts but they are most looking for bikes in good condition that can be refurbished and tuned relatively easily.

A bicycle that has been sitting rusting under the backyard spruce tree for the past few winters is beyond saving and should be donated to the landfill.

“The less work that is needed to fix them the better for us,” he said. As it is, even a modest tune-up often requires one to two hours of work per bike.

And considering the group hands out 150 to 200 bikes a year, that is a lot of tinkering, oiling, wheel straightening and adjusting.

“We need a lot of bikes,” said volunteer John Johnston, who is also president of the Red Deer Association for Bicycle Commuting.

Bikes of all shapes and sizes are accepted. Among the most popular, are mountain bikes for younger riders, typically around a 24-inch frame size.

Another popular style is step-through or drop-frame bicycles — once commonly referred to as girls’ bikes. The design is very handy for those who have mobility issues and struggle to swing their legs over a horizontal frame.

For some reason, bikes with training wheels are hard to come by and donations would be welcomed.

To donate or to get on the list for donations call or text Williamson at 403-318-5803.



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