Char-Koosta News

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Go ride a bike with the Medicine Wheel Bicycle Project

By Alyssa Kelly
Char-Koosta News

The Medicine Wheel Bicycle Project is rolling through the reservation to encourage the community to ride bikes. (Alyssa Kelly photo) The Medicine Wheel Bicycle Project is rolling through the reservation to encourage the community to ride bikes. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

RONAN — A big yellow bus adorned with hand drawn eagle feathers is rolling through neighborhoods throughout the Flathead Reservation encouraging people to ride bikes.

The Medicine Wheel Bicycle Project is a mobile bicycle repair shop that offers free repair services, instruction on repair, snacks, and if available, free bicycles, helmets, and basketballs. “We want to encourage everyone to start using their bikes for transportation,” Department of Human Resources Development (DHRD) Client Direct Services Assistant Sherry Dupuis said. “It’s good for your health and it’s good for the environment."

Managed under DHRD, the project was developed in collaboration with “Free Cycles,” a non-profit organization that has been providing free bicycle services since 1996. Bob Giordano, who successfully organized for free-to-use bicycles to be left around the city of Missoula, established the non-profit to “transition to a more sustainable transportation system.”

Kaige Lozeau models a new helmet he received from the Medicine Wheel Bicycle Project’s stop in the Pache Tribal Home Sites. (Alyssa Kelly photo) Kaige Lozeau models a new helmet he received from the Medicine Wheel Bicycle Project’s stop in the Pache Tribal Home Sites. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

Free Cycles mechanic Erik Edgren said the Medicine Wheel Bicycle Project is part of Free Cycle’s mission to set a strong example in other places. “We’ve been working closely with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to get this project off the ground because we believe everyone should have access to bicycles. Our role is to train individuals on how to repair bicycles and eventually pass on the torch,” he said.

Aside from providing training, Free Cycles assisted in renovating an old school bus purchased by DHRD into a fully operational bicycle repair shop. The shop includes a table, storage for tools, hooks for bikes and seating. The next phase of the renovation will be aesthetics. Dupuis said DHRD with be contracting with a local artist to provide custom graphics. “This is our first year doing this project. Our goal is that eventually people will recognize the bus and know what we’re here to do,” she said.

Free Cycles bicycle mechanic Erik Edgren (L) does extensive repairs on a Huffy bicycle brought by 11-year-old Zacharias Parker MCDonough (Center) and his great-grandfather Henry Christie. “I think it’s good that kids learn how to repair their own bikes,” says Christie. (Alyssa Kelly photo) Free Cycles bicycle mechanic Erik Edgren (L) does extensive repairs on a Huffy bicycle brought by 11-year-old Zacharias Parker MCDonough (Center) and his great-grandfather Henry Christie. “I think it’s good that kids learn how to repair their own bikes,” says Christie. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

During its first tour, the Medicine Wheel Bicycle Project attracted over 40 children during its stop at the Pache Tribal Home Site. Attendees received bicycle safety tips and a hands-on look at the process of repair. “Bikes can be intimidating when something goes wrong. We want to empower people to fix the problem rather than feel like they need to purchase a new bike,” Edgren said.

One of the more extensive projects on site was a Huffy bicycle brought by 11-year-old Zacharias Parker McDonough and his great-grandfather Henry Christie. The bicycle’s steering system was backwards and overlapped the front wheel. It needed new brake cables, and new grips. Edgren said the repairs are common for bicycles purchased at department stores.

“Bikes purchased at department stores have a cheaper price but also have cheaper parts,” Edgren said. “Brands like Next, Huffy, and Schwinn are usually designed to be difficult to repair so most bike shops won’t even touch them. When something breaks down you have no choice but to by a new one. I would suggest that people purchase bikes from shops.”

The Department of Human Resources Development purchased an old school bus, which was renovated by the non-profit organization “Free Cycles” into a mobile bicycle repair shop. The shop includes a table, storage for parts and tools, hooks for bicycles, and seating. (Alyssa Kelly photo) The Department of Human Resources Development purchased an old school bus, which was renovated by the non-profit organization “Free Cycles” into a mobile bicycle repair shop. The shop includes a table, storage for parts and tools, hooks for bicycles, and seating. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

The Medicine Wheel Bicycle Project is continuing its tour of the reservation. On July 24 the bus will be traveling to the Polson West Side Tribal Home Site from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Turtle Lake Tribal Home Site from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The tour will end on July 31 in the DHRD parking lot at the Tribal Complex in Pablo from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.For more information call: (406) 675-2700, ext. 1238.

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