By C.J. Barbre

It turns out that the city of Lindsay has more than 40 bikes that have apparently been abandoned. Attempts to connect them to the proper owners have failed so the city plans to auction the bikes along with computers, cars and whatnot now considered surplus property at city yard on Saturday, Dec. 3.

Back in 1994 the city of Portland, Ore. started a free community bike program than came to be called the Yellow Bike Program. They started with 10 broken-down bikes, repaired them and painted them all yellow. They attached signs that said &#8220Free Community Bike. Use at Own Risk. Repair or pickup call 331-0526.” They called a press conference and got a ton of publicity.

According to the Yellow Bike Story website, &#8220The sight was great - yellow bikes buzzing all over downtown Portland with the media in hot pursuit.” Bikes began being donated from everywhere. A month later they had an additional 50 bikes and decided 1,000 bikes would be critical mass for their city.

Regarding liability issues, it says on the website, &#8220We are asked frequently about liability. It is possible in this day an age that some people may take advantage of the program. We feel the best solution for this potential risk is to make sure that the sponsoring entity has just enough assets to fund its current operations.”

We hear no more from Portland, but it was the start of something big. Fast forward to 2005.

At the BikeShare/Community Bicycle Network website the city of Toronto, Canada has taken a more formal approach to the Yellow Bike Story. They require membership in the program. A season's pass is $25 (less than the price of a tank of gas they note) or four hours of community service.

&#8220Just show your Season's Pass at any conveniently located hub and ride away on a retro single-speed bike equipped with lock, bell, basket and reflector tape. Use the bike for a couple of hours or the whole day and then drop it off at any hub - not just the one you signed it out of.”

They list the rules such as a $2 per day late fee if a bike is kept more than three days, along the lines of a lending library. It appears all the necessary information is available on the Web.

Suffice to note there are now more than a hundred community bike programs in this country according to the Directory of Community Bike Programs. And they have traveled to foreign countries including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Scotland, Singapore and Switzerland.

It seems like the flatland communities in the Valley, Lindsay for instance, could embrace this type of program given that so many citizens have transportation needs and the scarcity of pubic transportation. And there is the fitness aspect as well as the non-polluting aspect. McDermont Field House could be the hub. It's something to think about (maybe before the bikes are sold at auction).

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