By Steve Hubrecht
A Juniper Heights man keeps wheeling along in his efforts to help those in need of bikes.
The man — Doug Charlton — was first featured in the Pioneer four years ago for his volunteer organization Bike It Forward. Its mission is straightforward: Charlton fixes up old and unwanted bikes, then gives them to those who could not otherwise afford them.
Bike It Forward’s tires got a bit of extra spin recently thanks to a pair of generous donations from local businesses: Far Out Gear Rental owner Phil Gorman donated a dozen bikes and Lakeside Bike Co. owner Matt McDonald donated $350.
“A bike represents a lot of different things. It can be freedom for people. It can become inclusion for kids. Sometimes it allows people to get to work or to get to school,” Charlton told the Pioneer. “I can still remember just the sheer joy of riding a bike when I was a kid. I’d like to see every kid in the world have a bike if I could.”
While it’s logistically impossible for Charlton to get a bike in the hands of literally every single kid in the world, he is doing as much as one human can possibly do to that end, and then a little bit more.
When he spoke to the Pioneer last week, he had already given out more than 330 bikes this year; that’s more than one bike per day. Now consider that Charlton has been doing this for seven years and counting. A lot of bikes? Yes, indeed. No wonder Charlton confesses that his Juniper Heights home is a bit of a bike graveyard, with bicycles awaiting repairs filling the property, filling the garage and two large canvas tents set up as impromptu workshops.
Charlton gives about half the bikes he fixes to local kids in the Columbia Valley who can’t afford them. The other half go to refugees in Calgary through the Mosaic organization.
In terms of bikes being donated, Charlton says about half are donated to him here in the Columbia Valley, and the other half come from donors in Calgary.
Charlton also gets a lot of usable bikes from the ‘Windermere Walmart’ (aka the section of the local landfill where salvageable items are kept).
Gorman said that he’s accumulated quite a lot of bikes, especially youth-sized ones, during Far Out’s eight years in business. “I really like the idea of them going to someone that really needs them. I just didn’t have the time to fix them myself, so I gave them to Doug,” said Gorman.
McDonald’s donation was similarly motivated by a love of seeing more people riding, but comes with a twist. A bike was recently stolen from Lakeside Bike Co. Then a few days later the bike was returned. But by that point, McDonald had already written it off. So he decided to raffle off the returned bike and then donate the proceeds, splitting the money raised between two local bike-centric nonprofits, with half going to Bike it Forward and the other half to the Invermere chapter of Cycling Without Age.