Volunteers try to save bike program

Former Wright Chrysler building eyed as temporary home
The former Wright Chrysler building on Route 1 is being discussed as a possible temporary home for bikes loaned out by Lewes-Rehoboth Association of Churches volunteers for use by international exchange students. Volunteers are concerned that with nowhere to store the bikes, the program cannot continue. BY RYAN MAVITY
August 28, 2014

Every day, an email plea comes in to Maryann and Bruce Kauffman:

"Hi, I just arrived in Rehoboth from Romania. Do you have any bicycles left? Please let me know, as I need one as soon as possible."

"I need a bicycle. A bike is very important now. My workplace is very far from home."

"I am an exchange visitor student. I just moved to Lewes and I will really need a bicycle because I have two jobs and the public transportation would take too much time to go from one job to another and is also a bit expensive."

The Kauffmans serve as volunteers with a bike program sponsored by the Lewes-Rehoboth Association of Churches under the umbrella of the International Student Outreach Program, which providing the students with free bicycles. However, the Kauffmans say the program is in jeopardy because at the end of the month there is nowhere to store the bikes.

Maryann said All Saints Thrift Shop had been using half an adjacent building for storage while the other half was used as a bike storage and repair area. However, at the end of this month, the thrift shift is not renewing its lease for the building, necessitating a new home for the bikes.

“If we can’t find a place to store and repair bicycles, we’re going to have to shut down. We can’t put 150 bicycles in our yard; it just can’t be done,” Maryann said.

Volunteer Bob Smiles said he is meeting with officials from Delaware Department of Transportation to discuss the possibility of using the former Wright Chrysler dealership building for temporary storage.

Smiles said this is a short-term solution, because DelDOT plans to turn the dealership into a new transit hub, but it would allow storage through the winter.

Anthony Aglio, bicycle coordinator for DelDOT, confirmed that talks are ongoing to store the bikes in the Wright Chrysler building. DelDOT runs its own bicycle program for the international students, with extra bikes offered by LRAC. Aglio said storage should be possible because DelDOT’s plans to turn the building into a transit hub are on hold due to a lack of funds.

"It’s a great thing they are doing,” he said. “We want to try to help them.”

This year, the LRAC bike program has 136 bikes on loan and 43 students are on a waiting list for a bike, Maryann said. She said the program’s inventory has grown from 80 bikes two years ago to 156 this year. Bikes that have not been loaned out are awaiting repair, need to be replaced or have been stolen.

DelDOT supplies an additional 100 bikes to students and also gives them a training course on bicycle safety and proper places to ride, Aglio said.

Maryann said Bruce, who repairs the bikes, just needs 1,000 square feet close to Rehoboth with electricity and a concrete floor.

“We’re not picky,” Maryann said. She said they have gone to storage facilities and realtors looking for space that could be donated but they have struck out.

“We hope that somewhere there is a garage or a corner of a warehouse that isn’t being used. We’re hoping that maybe there is something temporary that we can use in the winter,” Bruce said. He said the churches have discussed building a shed-type building to house the bikes, but that is viewed as more of a long-term solution.

Smiles said he has not discussed a storage solution with businesses that employ the international students.

Maryann said local businesses like Bikes To Go and Kmart have been supportive, with the latter offering discounts to international students on the waiting list for a bike.