Mechanic, Round Lake Park police team up to give abandoned bikes new riders

 
 
Updated 1/17/2019 6:26 AM
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  • Patrick Tracy of Round Lake spends part of his off day Wednesday fixing bikes at the Round Lake Park Police Department. They'll be donated to people in need in the community.

      Patrick Tracy of Round Lake spends part of his off day Wednesday fixing bikes at the Round Lake Park Police Department. They'll be donated to people in need in the community. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Patrick Tracy of Round Lake enjoys being able to recycle bicycles back into the community. Here, Tracy spends some time on Wednesday getting bikes street ready at the Round Lake Park Police Department.

      Patrick Tracy of Round Lake enjoys being able to recycle bicycles back into the community. Here, Tracy spends some time on Wednesday getting bikes street ready at the Round Lake Park Police Department. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Patrick Tracy of Round Lake grabs a bike needing work at the Round Lake Park Police Department. Tracy completes minor repairs for the new program to repurpose abandoned bikes.

      Patrick Tracy of Round Lake grabs a bike needing work at the Round Lake Park Police Department. Tracy completes minor repairs for the new program to repurpose abandoned bikes. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Hand sanitizer was not the preferred option, but it worked in a pinch for Patrick Tracy, a bike mechanic on a mission in the Round Lake Park police garage.

Tracy was attaching new hand grips to one of 11 bicycles he was tending to Wednesday as part of a new program to repurpose what might otherwise be scrapped or sold at auction for a few dollars.

"If you ever have to do this, use hair spray, the cheaper the better," explained the energetic 39-year old resident of neighboring Round Lake. "In a day it dries and it sticks."

Some of the bikes piled against a wall in a cluttered storage area will need more work to get them up and running. But Tracy did his reconnaissance on a previous visit and is prepared with parts either scavenged from bikes that are too far gone, donated or bought at a discount from his employer, Village CycleSport in Arlington Heights.

Tracy, who described himself as someone who likes to be active and entertained, is donating his time and talent after answering a call for volunteers from Police Chief George Filenko on Nextdoor, a community social network.

"It's something I could do very easily," Tracy said. "If it was other people, they might struggle."

While driving through town one evening, Filenko said he saw a pedestrian carrying grocery bags down the road and realized the abandoned bicycles collected the village could fill a need.

"We've got challenges in the community. The economy is up and down. Not everybody is employed, not everybody has a car. It's a way to give back," he said.

"Without Patrick, this isn't happening," Filenko added. "I have to think about safety and liability. We're not certified bike mechanics."

Police sometimes receive reports of stolen bikes but recover them within hours or a day, Filenko explained. The ones in storage, including adult and kids' models, had been dumped along roadsides or chained to street signs and left.

"They're abandoned bikes. By law after 10 days if no one has claimed it, it just becomes abandoned property," he said. The next step is a municipal auction, where the bikes might fetch a fraction of their value, as some of the bikes in good shape are worth hundreds of dollars.

"We're taking bikes that would get thrown away or auctioned off for a dollar or so and getting them back in the community -- 100 percent recycling, which I love," Tracy said.

He began fixing bikes as a hobby in his youth and still uses the repair stand he's had since he was 13.

A scrapper in town whose ride had a bent front wheel, no brakes and a broken basket received the first refurbished bike, Filenko said. Ray McCarty of R & M Auto Body next door welded the basket to the new bike at no charge.

"It's a community effort," Filenko said.

He'll be working with Nicasa, a nonprofit organization with an office in town, to determine the next steps.

"They're going to be our distribution point," Filenko said. "They have a lot of families come in and they'll be the triage for the bicycles."

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