By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The Laconia Area Bike Exchange, now in its third year, has been able to provide about 300 bicycles to those in need of transportation during that time.
It now faces a major challenge in the days ahead as it looks to come up with 18 bicycles for exchange students who are staying at Lakes Region Community College this summer and will need them to get to and from work at Dunkin' Donuts.
Nick Walton, residence director of LRCC, stopped by the exchange Tuesday afternoon to talk with John Rogers, founder of the exchange, about the need for the bikes and Rogers said he would be reaching out to the community in an effort to locate bikes for the students.
Rogers said that the exchange is benefiting this summer by having a college student help out with repairs and operating the exchange, which is located at 343 Court St., next to Eased Edges.
Jack Schrupp of Gilford, a Williams College student, says he heard about the exchange during the winter and contacted Rogers about working there.
"It's a good cause and there are lots of people in need of transportation, to get to work or doctor's appointments," said Schrupp, who is a graduate of St. Paul's School in Concord and has skied with Gunstock Nordic Federation. "There's a lot of work to do here."
The exchange was the brainchild of Rogers. Having worked with troubled youth in the past, Rogers would take bicycles that he found, fix them up and give the bikes away so they could get to school and get out for exercise.
As a result of his experience with the Landmark Education program, Rogers said, he realized that his idea could be expanded into the community, and brought his idea to Better Together's annual celebration in December of 2013.
"It received a positive response. From there, with support from Better Together, the city of Laconia, civic leaders, Piche's, MC Cycle, and New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Laconia Area Bicycle Exchange was created and opened its doors two years ago in March."
He said the primary purpose of the exchange is to provide a means of inexpensive alternative transportation in the form of refurbished bicycles, made available to people who would benefit with greater mobility as it relates to work, family and personal living. A referral program is used by working with area human service organizations that refers people to the exchange. Personal referrals and demonstrated need also qualifies someone to receive a bicycle. Bikes locks and helmets are also offered.
Rogers says that new this year will be a $10 fee for the bicycles, which he says will give those receiving them a sense of ownership about the entire process.
He said that long-time volunteers Cliff King and Peter Bixby have helped repair the bikes the last couple of years and that Joe Bush of Belmont, another adult volunteers, has been extremely helpful in repairing and stripping bikes which have been donated.
Rogers said the greatest need is for adult mountain bikes of any condition.
Hours at the Bike Exchange are Tuesday, 4 to 5:30 p.m.; Thursday, noon to 1 p.m.; and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Jack Schrupp of Gilford, a volunteer with the Laconia Area Bike Exchange, is working to repair bicycles at the exchange's workshop on Court Street. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)