Bike donor swamped with requests
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado – A Colorado Springs man who has been giving away free bikes to the poor for years has a problem – too many requests.
Now the bike tuner is asking for help for the first time, asking charities to donate money to hire a mechanic to help him refurbish used bikes.
Peter Sprunger-Froese of The Bike Clinic says the free bikes are important for people who can’t afford transportation. He’s been doing the volunteer work solo since 1993, turning out about 14 bikes a week. But he says the bad economy has left him with more requests than he can handle alone.
“I have an inordinate number of people asking for bikes that had a car or a home until very recently but lost their jobs, had their cars repossessed and no longer have money for rent,” he told The (Colorado Springs) Gazette.
About a dozen people a day now appeal to Sprunger-Froese to assemble bikes from discarded carcasses and innards that bike shops and individuals donate. That’s about double the normal traffic, Sprunger-Froese said.
The increased demand has created a waiting list of 73 people, and Sprunger-Froese’s efforts now consume 60 to 80 hours of his time each week.
Last week, Sprunger-Froese asked local organizations that help the homeless to consider donating money to pay for another bike mechanic.
“Furnishing second-hand bikes is an important aspect in human uplift – as important as providing a roof, food and counseling,” he said.
The Bike Clinic provides a worthy service to those who have no or low income, said Bob Holmes, executive director of Homeward Pikes Peak, an agency that coordinates local homeless services.
“Peter has boiled down his calling or his propensity to help the homeless to something incredibly practical,” Holmes said. “He’s the real deal.”
His cause has the support of Criterium Bike Shops, which has paid The Bike Clinic’s monthly rent for 16 years and regularly donates used bike parts and frames.
“We’re in business to make money, but we understand there are people in this community that can’t afford to buy a bike but still deserve to ride a bike and need transportation,” said Chris Behm, a senior staff member at Criterium.
Recipients say the bicycles they receive are life-changing.
“If it weren’t for Peter, there would be a lot of people walking,” said 52-year-old Robert Marvin, who lived on the streets for three years and recently received a bike from Sprunger-Froese. “The bike has helped me so much – it’s a necessity in my life to get me to work and around town.”
Snow usually comes and goes in this part of the state. A forecasted storm is expected to stick around for a while. Forecasters are calling for snow to persist throughout the weekend in the high country, with a prospect of a couple of feet of powder by the time the storm starts to diminish on Monday.