Wheel Power | TheUnion.com

Wheel Power

Seven Hills School counselor Steve Davis rides 15 miles to and from work every day on his bicycle.

With the escalating price of gasoline, more and more people are following suit and looking at their bicycles as a healthy means to save a buck.

“I saw more people on bikes than before,” Davis said of his Monday morning commute.

This week is Bike to Work Week, and the Alliance for People Powered Transportation is promoting Thursday, May 15, as Bike to Work Day.

Several local businesses will offer free coffee, food and other beverages. Bicyclists who register for the event can win prizes.

“My hope is that people will realize life is just better on a bike,” said Shana Maziarz, founding member of the Alliance for People Powered Transportation.

The group gives support to people who want to make an effort to drive less and ride more to work or to run errands.

In recent years, Grass Valley and Nevada City have given financial support to the group. Last year Nevada County adopted a bicycle master plan that will allow it to apply for state funding for more bike lanes and signs.

Cycling is a lifestyle for Davis, who started the Bicycle Recycle project at Seven Hills nine years ago.

Davis’ students rehabilitate donated junk bicycles and turn them into bikes for homeless people through the Sacramento Loaves and Fishes charitable organization.

This year, students gave away 60 recycled bikes to homeless people and repaired another 38.

“They’re seeing the close of this loop. It’s an awareness. It’s trying to help each other help others,” Davis said.

What started out as a small operation in a storage room has blossomed into a full-scale shop.

Rows of bike tires hang from the ceiling and the place hums with conversation and sounds of air compressors and the clatter of wrenches.

Outside, donated used bikes line the side of the building next to heaps of discarded bent frames, old tires and other unusable parts.

After assembling a bike, a student handed it to Davis, who test- peddled it in circles on the black top.

This year, an anonymous donor gave the program a $210,000 endowment. Davis used the money to buy a brand new mobile bike-repair van to teach area children how to fix their bikes.

The money will also pay Rich Looney a part-time salary at the school’s shop.

Looney recently closed TR2 bicycle shop in Grass Valley to devote more time to the bike project.

The program teaches ecological awareness, the health benefits of cycling, cooperation among classmates and the reward of helping someone in need.

As a side benefit, students are developing self esteem and a sense of accomplishment.

“I’ve learned how to fix brake cables and pretty much anything else you need to know to work on bikes. Before, all I knew was how to change ball bearings,” said Kris Colen, 12, a sixth-grade student who is taking the class for a second semester.

Colen plans to continue riding his bike even after he’s old enough to drive because of high gas prices.

“I would say they don’t have a choice. This next generation is faced with some real tough decisions,” Looney said.

To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail lbrown@theunion.com or call 477-4231.

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