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Archive for Sunday, July 28, 2002

Free bicycle program gets rolling in Wichita

July 28, 2002

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— For most of the last decade, an anonymous man has made it his mission to leave green bicycles parked throughout Wichita for anyone to use.

"Bike Man" works with the Bicycle X-Change, a local bicycle shop, to supply the bikes around the city. Riders are advised to just hop on a bike and then leave them on a main street when they're done.

Mike Scanga, owner of the shop, said "Bike Man" comes into the shop after hours to fix the bicycles and give them their green paint job. Then he leaves between eight and 20 bikes a month around Wichita.

Bike Man has been providing the free transportation for most of the last decade after the city scuttled the idea because of liability concerns, Scanga said.

A sticker on the bikes advises riders to "use at your own risk," and no helmets are provided. Safety experts advise wearing helmets while bike riding to prevent serious injuries.

And if the bikes are broken or get a flat, they are brought back to the shop and fixed. The bikes are set up with a single gear for ease of maintenance.

Similar bike efforts have run into a seemingly inevitable problem.

Officials at Florida State University tried to fight campus traffic by providing 20 free bikes last year. But the program was discontinued after thieves helped themselves to the bikes.

But it doesn't really matter if the bikes are stolen in Wichita, Scanga said, because Bike Man just isn't preoccupied with that.

Chris and Christine Campbell, who were riding the bikes last week, said they appreciated that the bikes worked.

"If we don't like this one, we can just trade it in," Chris Campbell said.

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