NORWAY — Every Tuesday evening during the month on March, Center for Ecology-Based Economy has been a hub of painting, tune ups and fix-a-flat remedies to get its fleet road ready for this year’s BikeShare program.
This is the second year of the Norway-based program, which allows people to use bicycles in and around Norway, Paris and Oxford for two to three hours at a time.
The program is expanding this year with the addition of two new bike racks to be placed in Market Square in Paris and near Stephens Memorial Hospital and Healthy Oxford Hills on lower Main Street in Norway, according to CEBE Executive Director Scott Vlaun.
A smaller bike rack will be located at Paris Autobarn at the intersection of East Main Street and Route 119.
The BikeShare program will run from Friday, April 1, to Thursday, Dec. 1, weathering permitting, according to Seal Rossignol, who’s in charge of CEBE’s programming. She noted during the program’s inaugural year, the bikes were out a little longer in December 2015 because of the mild weather.
For 2016, there are 15 lime green bicycles in the program’s fleet. CEBE associates and volunteers have been working to get them ready for the warmer weather. Katie Kleim moved from Portland to Bridgton in December and decided to help at the SkillShare program so she could learn how to fix bikes. Also, as a former Americorps member, she enjoys volunteering her time.
“It’s pretty ironic I’m doing this. Bikes scare me a lot. I haven’t ridden a lot since I was a kid,” she said, laughing. “I am constantly afraid for my boyfriend’s life because he doesn’t wear a helmet.”
Bill Miller has been a regular volunteer at SkillShare and had his son, Peter, who’s home from college, and was in tow at last week’s maintenance event. Miller said he worked as a mechanic in the 1980s in New Jersey.
“I have fun doing mechanical stuff,” he said. “I like helping out.”
Vlaun said he appreciates the time volunteers have put in to maintain and help expand the fleet.
“We’ve had some serious regular volunteers. Without the volunteers to fix up the bikes, we would have never gotten this far,” he said. “It’s a really good time if you’re into learning how to work on bikes.”
In his experience, Vlaun has come across many people who are afraid to ride bikes – especially for a distance – because they don’t know how to change a flat tire or fix a chain that’s come loose. Participating in the SkillShare program will teach attendees just that.
“I think that’s empowered a lot of people,” he added.
Last year, the BikeShare program had more than 70 people signed up, Rossignol said.
“It was great,” she said. “We’re hoping to get our numbers over 100 this year.”
With the opening of the new Western Maine Health medical building on Pikes Hill, CEBE is hoping to tap into a new segment of the population to sign up for the program.
“The hospital workers can use the bikes to go back and forth between the two facilities. … Even patients if they’re down [at the hospital] and they get referred to a doctor down here, or vice versa, they can take a bike rather than drive,” Vlaun said. “Those are the kind of trips that is really convenient for … [so] you don’t have to start your car to drive around the block.”
Those using the bikes run the gamut, according to Vlaun. They range from people riding them to work every day to others taking them shopping to some using them to go visit friends to one guy applying for jobs. And after the first bike season was said and done, only one was lost last year.
“We were told there was a bike in Lewiston,” Vlaun said, noting it had its distinctive orange basket attached to it. “For the most part, people have been pretty good considering how many bikes we had out and how many people we had ride them.”
CEBE received a grant from New England Grassroots Environmental Fund to help launch the program. There’s also been private donations of bikes and others donated by Paris Autobarn. And Green Machine Bike Shop has given CEBE a discount on parts and offered advice when needed.
While the program is free, Vlaun said CEBE is “encouraging donations of whatever people can do – either in time for SkillShare or money. It costs a lot of money to run the program, especially with parts.”
“Everyone I think, feels more a part of something when you have a little skin in the game, whether it’s your time or resources,” she said.
How do I get a bike?
Stop in at Center for Ecology-Based Economy (CEBE), read the agreement and sign a waiver. A combination for locks on all of the bikes will be used for the 2016 season and issued after signing.
Where are the pick up and drop off locations?
- CEBE, 447 Main St., Norway
- Near Healthy Oxford Hills, 159 Main St., Norway
- Market Square, Paris
- Paris Autobarn, 161 E. Main St., Paris
How long can I use the bike?
Between two and three hours a day from April 1 through Dec. 1
What can I use it for?
Pleasure riding, to get to an appointment, shopping – some bikes have large baskets, or anything you like!
Where can I take the bike?
In a large triangle of the area, stretching from Lake Pennesseewassee Park in Norway to Market Square in Paris to Hannaford and Wal-Mart shopping areas on Route 26 in Oxford and back down Main Street in Norway. No off roading allowed.
Does it cost me money?
The Bike Share program is free, but donations of money and/or time in the Skill Share program to tune up the bikes is encouraged.
When is the SkillShare program held?
Once a month from April through December, with dates and times TBA.
What if I have a bike to donate?