Giveaway makes bike recipients happy

Giveaway makes bike recipients happy

URBANA — An almost two-hour wait in unseasonably chilly weather Friday morning didn't seem to faze Rachel Strickler.

The 17-year-old Mahomet girl was beaming at her reward: a slightly used but nicely working Trek bicycle that was just her size.

"I had a mountain bike but it's too short for me," she said.

Her mother, Christine Strickler, wrapped in a blanket to protect against the 50-degree temperature, said her daughter has outgrown three bicycles in the last 18 months so they were grateful to find one that fit her in their price range — free.

The Stricklers were very near the front of the line of more than 200 people who waited patiently at the Urbana Public Works garage on Glover Street Friday to relieve police agencies of abandoned bicycles they have been collecting for the past several months.

The event was the second such giveaway orchestrated by the Urbana police department. The last one was just before Christmas. This time, there were more than 150 bicycles to be given away, most of which came from the Champaign County sheriff's office, which decided to take advantage of the Urbana location.

Chelsea Angelo, the Urbana police employee in charge of the abandoned bikes, said there were also about 10 bicycles dropped off in the last few days by people who read of the giveaway in the paper and wanted to donate to a worthy cause.

The event was scheduled between 10 a.m. and noon but Angelo said she spied the first people lining up around 7 a.m. And because of the length of the line and because the officers were ready, they began letting people select, four at a time, at 9:30 a.m.

Alan Douglas of Urbana was admiring a basic, pared down model with one speed — that at which the rider pedals.

"It's beautiful. They call them beach cruisers. The kids call them buses," he said. Douglas said he has collected and worked on bicycles for years. He planned to hang on to the red one he chose — one that had been donated — for his nieces to ride when they come to visit.

He and a friend who stood in line with him since 8 a.m. were in the third set of four to choose.

Angelo said the giveaway wrapped up at noon and by the end they had given away 148 bicycles in working condition plus a couple of junkers that people wanted for parts. Another 13 that were in pretty bad condition are destined for The Bike Project located at the Independent Media Center in downtown Urbana. It's a co-op that shares space, knowledge and tools for repairing bicycles.

Angelo lauded the patience of the people who endured frozen fingers and toes only to be turned away.

"We had a great crowd, no problems of any kind. Unfortunately, not everybody who showed up got a bike," she said, estimating 250 people showed up.

Angelo said the department hopes to hold another giveaway in December.

"I've had requests from apartment complexes around town to donate bikes. I try to have at least 100," she said.