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Abandoned Bicycles Get a Second Chance

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june10homespunweb.jpgBy Patrick Kampert

RISMEDIA, June 10, 2008-(MCT)-It is the great bicycling irony. Some people lock up their bikes and, an hour later, they’re gone, stolen. Yet others languish in bike racks for weeks or months, abandoned as their metal rusts and paint job fades. And if you’ve ever abandoned your bike in Chicago, there’s a good chance it eventually found its way to Lee Ravenscroft.

Ravenscroft is the founder and president of Working Bikes, a non-profit cooperative that fixes up bikes and either sells them (usually for around $60) or ships them overseas to places such as Africa and Central America. In fact, the group just sent 550 bikes (plus spare parts and tools to fix them if they break down) in a container to Angola this month.

“I think a lot of those bikes are abandoned because they need too much work,” he said. “I’d say 9 out of 10 are broken and need repair.”

What kind of repairs do they usually need?

“The derailleur hangers get all bent so it doesn’t change gears,” he said. “Flat tires. The brakes don’t work really well. Or, the rear wheel gets stolen, and that can cost more to replace than the bike itself.”

Department-store bikes tend to break more easily, Ravenscroft added. And, yes, college students are often the ones who leave their bicycles behind when they leave school for the summer or when they graduate. Ravenscroft said he recently spoke with one guy who left Chicago and forgot about his bike, but found it a year later still locked up where he left it. Jody Orlovick, an administrative assistant for the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, has a similar story.

She had what she called her “Loop bike,” which she used as part of her morning commute when she was running late or just needed to get around quickly. “I would quite often forget where I had locked it,” she said. Sometimes a week would pass before she stumbled across it or hunted it down.

“I know that it appeared abandoned because it was old, rusty, and quite often left for days at a time,” she said. “Sometimes I would go move it just because I thought it was likely that the city (might) come and snatch it.”

If your bike has simply seen better days and you’d like to part with it, don’t just leave it in some random bike rack. Ravenscroft’s group (workingbikes.org) would be happy to fix it up and give it a new home.

“We can take it,” he said.

© 2008, Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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