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Iowa City has a lot to see and do, but it’s hard to experience it all when you’re a kid without a set of wheels.

Henri Harper, community outreach assistant at the Iowa City Police Department, wants to change that.

He’s working with David Schwindt, the department’s downtown liaison officer, to start a program that gets bikes to about 15 kids in the community later this year. The goal, Harper said, is not only to teach them safe riding techniques, but also “getting them to understand they live in a great community and there’s great things they can experience.”

“This is a way we can give back to youth in the community,” Harper added. “We have a lot of great trails and parks in this community.”

The bikes themselves are to come from the inventory of abandoned bikes recovered by the city and refurbished through a partnership with Iowa City bike shop World of Bikes.

Previously, Schwindt said once a fleet of recovered bikes was built up, the city would publish a legal notice indicating the bikes have gone unclaimed and the owner has 90 days to come forward. Under city code, after 90 days, the police department had the option of auctioning the bikes or donating them to a nonprofit. Schwindt said 25 percent of the bicycles typically went to the Iowa City Bike Library and the rest went to Working Bikes, a Chicago-based company that sent bikes and parts to Africa.

Last month, however, the Iowa City Council approved the first reading of a resolution that would allow the police department to donate some bikes directly to individuals, with the rest still going to nonprofits. The City Council is to again discuss the project at its meeting set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 410 E. Washington St.

Schwindt said the owners of his current group of unclaimed bicycles have until the end of the month to claim them. Then he will go through and start determining which ones could work as donations.

“This is going to be a learning curve,” he said. “I have not gone through and looked though the inventory at all yet. I don’t know what we have available. We’ll go through and pick the best ones.”


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