HARRISBURG, Pa. — At Recycle Bicycle, the number one rule is simple: If you want a bike, you can take a bike, but you're going to have to work for it.
Summer time is bike riding time, and its Allison Hill location on Chestnut Street is packed with people looking to leave on a set of two wheels. Everyone who comes into the Harrisburg non-profit though has to learn how to build their bicycle—replacing brakes, fixing a flat tire, lining up chains, and more.
Perhaps more important than garage smarts though are street smarts. Recycle Bicycle founder Ross Willard takes the opportunity to educate anyone who comes into his shop not only on how to build a bike, but how to be safe once they're on one.
As society starts to open up towards the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and nurses say they're seeing more child trauma visits to the emergency room due to bicycle accidents. According to traffic data from PennDOT, the 787 bicycle crashes statewide in 2020 were a 20-year low. However, the 22 bicycle-related fatalities in 2020 tied a 20-year high.
Amy Bollinger, head pediatric trauma nurse at Penn State Children's Hospital in Hershey, said many of these bicycle crashes involving children happen without them wearing a helmet.
Willard said teaching someone how to wear a helmet is incredibly important, but it's not the only thing which will prevent traumatic injuries.
"I need health professionals, I need the city, and I need everyone involved to help kids understand how to wear a helmet," Willard said. "I can’t do that yet, but what I can do is make sure they have brakes."
Teaching people how to spot rusted brakes and replace them is one of Willard's top goals every time someone comes into his shop. Brakes, he said, are the leading cause for why a bike malfunctions.
"When there's a 2,000 to 4,000 pound car on top of you, a helmet doesn't do any good," Willard said.
Recycle Bicycle is located at 1722 Chestnut Street in Harrisburg. Its operating hours are Mondays 12 to 4 p.m., Tuesdays 5 to 8 p.m., and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.