About 3 years ago, I wrote about a great program started by Matt Velguth in Portland, Maine called The Bike Shop. He operated in some space owned by the Portland Housing Authority in one of the poorer neighborhoods of the city, where he taught civic values to kids by selling them $5 bikes (and $1 bike parts), teaching bicycle maintenance, and leading group rides.

In the program, he has kids between the ages of 8 and 17 and who began by using tricycles and have worked their way up to competing in some of the toughest triathlons in the state. Recently, the group has ridden their bikes all the way to the New Hampshire border (pictured at right.)

Unfortunately, the annual budget of $51,000 that depended upon private funding has dried up and the program has outgrown the small space that it has available to it. Local nonprofit companies haven’t been willing to donate money while allowing the Bike Shop to maintain its independence, so the program is going to be closed down as of the end of October, 2008.

“We just can’t go any further,” said program director Matt Velguth. “There’s going to be hundreds of bikes that literally grind to a halt.

“I really believe this is the most successful bike project in the country and we just can’t get support for it.

“If we had more funding or more space, we would have stayed.”

The shop serves about 500 kids annually, and has helped over 1100 kids in the past 5 years. It’s sad that the program has to close down, and I hope that Matt is able to successfully get it started again with wherever he moves to.

(More info: The Forecaster)