I was reading an article in the Portland Forecaster yesterday about the Bike Shop in Kennedy Park. The owner, Matt Velguth, sells donated bikes to the local youths (aged 8 to 17) for $5, and bike parts for $1. He teaches them how to ride and how to maintain their bikes, and has group rides every weekend.

“Ownership is very important,” Velguth said, explaining why the kids buy bikes as opposed to borrowing. The money from the bikes and parts is put in to a shop kitty, which is spent on Saturday and Sunday group rides. That is the other element of the Bike Shop. In addition to learning bike maintenance, the kids are getting out for up to 30-mile rides on the weekend, year round…In the warmer months, they spend their kitty on picnic lunches and on ferry tickets. In the winter, they stop at diners for hot cocoa and cookies.

This is a great program. It teaches kids some important skills and gets them excited about riding their bikes and being fit. They get away from home every weekend for a little while and learn how to interact with others. If a child loses his bike, Velguth makes them fill out their own stolen bike reports and call the police themselves. For some of the children, it was the first time they had been to a diner with at table service.

This would be a great program to start in just about any part of the country. The Bike Shop was also featured in the Portland Phoenix, where Velguth answered where he came up with the idea for the Bike Shop:

For the last 15 years I’ve been working mostly with at-risk kids in jails, in schools. My wife and I bike tour extensively and we met a man on tour [who had started a similar program]. But he took the opposite end of the spectrum – the brightest achievers, the wealthiest kids – and he would take them out on tours around the country. I started to seriously play around with this. How could I do this working at the other end of the spectrum?