A 25-bike donation from Steger Police pushed the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s fall “Recycle Your Bicycle” program to a new record.
A total of 147 bikes were collected during the program, which ended Sunday, Oct. 31. That topped the previous record of 127 bikes collected in fall 2017. The bikes will be picked up by Chicago-based Working Bikes, and most of them will be rehabbed for use by individuals in need locally or abroad.
Deputy Chief Gerald Ruff and Sgt. Pete Fajman of the Steger Police Department dropped off the bikes on Thursday, Oct. 28, at Monee Reservoir Visitor Center. Fajman said all the bikes donated by Steger Police were unclaimed bikes that had been in storage at the police department. At a certain point each year, the department runs out of room at the public works garage and the squad car garage and the bikes have to go, he explained.
When the department heard about the Forest Preserve’s bike recycling program, it was the perfect solution “instead of just scrapping them,” Fajman said. “This is a great alternative, and this way, the department does something good and helps people.”
Angie Opiola, program coordinator at Monee Reservoir, said she thinks word is getting out that this program serves a need not only for individuals who have unused bikes gathering dust, but also for police departments and other agencies that find themselves with too many bikes to store.
“The news is traveling that the Forest Preserve hosts these bike collection events twice a year,” she said. “We are elated because we’re helping police departments and municipalities get rid of bikes in a useful way.”
In many cases, there are restrictions on what police and public agencies can do with confiscated or found bikes, said Monee concessions manager Jason Stevenson, so the “Recycle Your Bicycle” program fills a need.
The Forest Preserve hosts “Recycle Your Bicycle” each spring and fall at Monee Reservoir, and each year about 100 bikes are collected. Prior to this fall’s collection, 1,046 bikes have been donated since the program began in 2011. With the most recent donations, the total is now 1,193.
Working Bikes, a nonprofit agency established in 1999, has donated more than 100,000 bikes around the world and locally. Some bikes are sold to support the organization; others are refurbished and sent to those who need a mode of transportation. Working bikes accepts donations of adult bikes in repairable condition, gently used kids’ bikes, bike parts and accessories.
Globally, Working Bikes sends repaired bicycles to Latin America and Africa including, El Salvador, Guatemala, Tanzania, Malawi, Lesotho, Uganda, Ghana, and many others. In Chicago and the suburbs, repaired bicycles are donated to veteran hospitals, health and human service agencies, transitional housing facilities, youth organizations, community centers and schools.
“We know that bicycles are the most reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly transportation option available, and we’re working towards a world where everyone has access to bicycle transportation, whether in Africa or Chicago!” the Working Bikes website states.
For more information on the Forest Preserve District of Will County, visit ReconnectWithNature.org.