The unclaimed bikes in Oak Bay tend to be higher quality than those plucked from the blackberry brambles in the Cowichan Valley, says Dave Ehle of U-Fix-It BikeWorks. The Oak Bay Police Department routinely donates unclaimed bikes not worthy of auction to the Duncan program.
@OakBayPolice is pleased to donate unclaimed bikes to @CMHABC (Cowichan) for their U-Fix-It Bikeworks program https://t.co/M41dsAC8j3 As much as we enjoy supporting these amazing youths though, we'd also love to return more bikes to their owners. Please report your missing bikes. pic.twitter.com/86iaBZfF9g
— Sgt Rob Smith (@OakBayCop) August 17, 2018
“We are a youth outreach program that we disguised as a bike shop. We figured the kids we really want to connect with are not going to come out to a youth outreach program,” says Ehle.
Sgt. Rob Smith says Oak Bay Police Department winds up a handful of bikes pulled from Bowker Creek, or chained to a fence for weeks that aren’t worth taking to auction.
“We end up with dozens of them every year and they need a good home,” Smith says, adding BikeWorks is a good program as “they teach young people how to fix them.”
Through BikeWorks, youth have the opportunity to earn a bike, each worth a value of volunteer hours.
“We use the time that they’re doing their volunteer work to teach them how to build and fix bikes and take bikes apart,” Ehle says.
The program looks to build four things in the young people: a sense of belonging, independence, generosity and mastery
“We really deliberately focus on all four of those,” Ehle says.
Ehle figures the community at large doesn’t even realize it’s an outreach, which is ideal for their purposes.
People from the community come in with a bike they need fixed and someone doing volunteer time can take the bike and help the customer.
“Then we help the kid who’s helping the community member. That way the kid learns and the community member and the kid get to know each other little bit,” Ehle says, adding it creates key community connections between generations. “They’re friends now.”
The young people “become an asset to their community. They become valuable in themselves.”
The value of donated bicycles range over the 13 years of the program from $3,000 mountain bikes to the freebies fished from the forest.
“The ones from Oak Bay are really, really good bikes. We have two streams, there’s bikes that come in and they’re just for parts, and others that get fixed up,” Ehle says. “They give the kids an opportunity to work on bikes that are a little bit nicer than our blackberry patch bikes. We routinely get people come in with five bikes that they’ve hauled out of the blackberry patch,”
“If it is bike, could be a bike or was a bike we will happily take it.”
The other bonus is a road trip north. Seven kids came down Island to meet the officers for the handoff.
“It let us bring down some of our kids, who are not on friendly terms with our local police, and make that connection,” Ehle says.
Oak Bay also takes the better shape bikes and partners with the Canadian Coast Guard to donate them to remote Inuit villages, another partnership BikeWorks is happy to be part of. Last year, they fixed up a handful of Oak Bay-found bikes and handed them off to the Coast Guard program.
“They can pass that along to people who are significantly more remote, and [the youth] connect with the police and the Coast Guard,” Ehle says.
While OBPD happily hands over the donations, they’d be more pleased to hand off to the rightful owner.
“Report your bike when it goes missing,” Smith says.
He has two nice youth bikes in storage right now, since the 2017 Victoria marathon, with helmets and all.
Contact OBPD to report a missing bike at 250-592-2424.
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