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May 04, 2010 3:43 am

Freedom Bikes return to Powell

Written by Tribune Staff

What's blue and white and rode all over?

Hopefully, the city of Powell's Freedom bikes.

A fleet of a dozen red, white and, primarily, blue bikes have been placed at city bike racks around town, available for anyone to use on the honor system.

The Freedom Bikes program, which first hit Powell's streets in 2006, returns after an absence last year. The revival is thanks in large part to a Powell teen, Regan Soloai, who fixed up the bikes as part of earning his Eagle Scout badge.

Soloai started with 15 bikes donated by the city from its unclaimed bike yard. Over the last few months, he spruced them up, using three for parts. He replaced a couple bad gears, bent warped tires back into shape, painted the bikes with paint donated by Pamida and added reflector tape donated by Bloedorn Lumber. About a week and a half ago, Soloai put them out for public use.

Soloai is a home-schooled senior who turns 18 in a couple weeks — hence, he said, the need to finish up his Eagle Scout project. Soloai said he hopes folks will use the bikes to get some exercise and get around town.

As labels on the cycles indicate, when you're finished using one, just leave it at a city rack.

Every summer the bikes have been provided — 2006, 2007, and 2008 — they've all been stolen within a matter of months.

“There was one (bike) that hung around for a while,” recalled Powell Mayor Scott Mangold. But after a couple times of disappearing, being found in a ditch, disappearing, being found out of town, “Finally, it disappeared completely,” said Mangold.

While he'd rather see Freedom Bikes stolen than some kid's, Mangold said he's crossing his fingers that this batch won't go missing.

The Mayor's Youth Council originally started the Freedom Bike program, based on similar programs in other communities.

“It's sort of a social experiment here in the Powell area,” said Mangold.

Soloai also is hoping these Freedom Bikes are better respected than their predecessors.

“That's really all I can do, is hope,” he said.