July 18, 2010

A look at on-your-honor bicycle programs

Denver, Colorado played host to the Optimist International Convention this year and two weeks after the fact, Optimist Club members from around the world are talking about what a great convention city Denver proved to be.  Our accommodations at the Sheraton were well suited to our group and everyone loved the 16th Street Mall area and the ability to take a walk to dining and shopping. I agree that it was a great experience.

Part of the fun of having our convention in different cities is getting to learn more about them. During the opening ceremonies, the director of the chamber of commerce told us about the business, health and environmentally friendly attributes of the state and Denver in particular. The rail and bus system is well used and just added was a  shared community bicycle program. With the bike program, healthy riders could pick up a free bike in one area of town, ride to their meeting or shopping destination and leave the bike or pick it up afterwards and return to work. The on-your-honor system makes it easy to get around. 

Having that program in my mind made me take notice of the Yellow Bike Program in Great Falls, Montana. Organized by the PM Optimist Club of Great Falls, the Yellow Bike Program began like the Denver program, an on-your-honor system.  According to Bill Beckett, President, PM Optimist Club, that program didn't work for them. "We kept finding the bikes in the river, " he said. 

So they revamped the program into an organized, practically free loaned-bicycle program that runs out of the PM Bike Shop. For a $2 registration fee, anyone can borrow a bike on the condition they promise to make minor repairs to it for flat tires and such while it is in their possession.  If major damage occurs, they can return it for another bike. All are asked to return them when they are no longer needed and according to Jim Edwards, a volunteer repairman at the shop, "Most people are pretty good about bringing the bicycles back." 

The bikes are donated, many of the supplies are donated and the labor is provided free of charge by the Optimist Club.  Borrowers are usually grandparents with children visiting over the summer, persons who may have lost their drivers licenses, parents who can't afford to buy bicycles for their children and persons living in the Great Falls Transition Center. 

The PM Optimist Club Yellow Bike Program has been serving the Treat Falls community for twelve years. Read more about it here. 

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