Resurrected rides: Group shows passion for bikes
As many Christians celebrated Easter with yellow Peeps, a famous yellow-themed program is seeing a resurrection of its own. The City's Yellow Bikes program, which had literally disappeared, will be hitting the streets once more. But there's a twist: They won't be yellow.
"It's going to be more of a library thing," says Alexis Zeiglar, new head of the nonprofit Community Yellow Bikes of the Piedmont, who says the bikes will now be called just "community bikes."
In a storage space behind the Hampton Inn on West Main Street, hundreds of future community bikes await "checking out." But whereas once volunteers would have fixed them up, painted them yellow, and put them out on the street for anyone to use on the honor system, the community bikes will actually become the property of anyone who wants to put the time into fixing them.
Kids, says Zeiglar, are key to the program.
"If they work on it themselves," he explains, "they become invested in it, and they take care of it."
It seems that may have been the problem with the Yellow Bikes. Although 180 were launched in March and September 2002, by early 2003 no one the Hook talked to had seen a yellow bike in months.
Theft and vandalism seemed the likeliest culprits, and city planning guru Satyendra Huja, a proponent of the program, expressed disappointment at the time that "so many were stolen or destroyed."
Zeiglar says the Yellow Bikes program could have worked had there been the funds to support it– and to replenish the quickly disappearing resource.
"Yellow Bikes works where they can put hundreds of thousands of dollars into it," he explains. Charlottesville, he says, does not have "that kind of resources."
The shop off West Main is open Thursday and Saturday from 2-5pm. Zeiglar says the program currently has approximately 10 volunteers, but he's actively "shopping for more."
If you have a bike that's not working, Zeiglar says, you have two options: You can donate it, or you can bring it in and get some help fixing it.
And if you don't have a bike?
Volunteering for "a minimum of an hour," says Zieglar, "will get you a bike."
Yellow bikes are gone, but the yellow racks await new "community bikes."
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO