British Columbia

Retired B.C. builder dumpster dives for bikes, fixes hundreds for kids

Doug Charlton lives in Invermere, B.C., and regularly rummages through dumpsters, salvaging abandoned bikes.

Doug Charlton has fixed 250 bikes so far with the Polar Bike Project

Doug Charlton stands in his garage, where he's fixed about 250 bikes. (submitted by Doug Charlton)

To say Doug Charlton is passionate about fixing bikes is an understatement.

The retired builder lives in Invermere, B.C., and regularly rummages through recycling centres and landfills, salvaging abandoned bikes and parts.

"Most of them come from the landfill — folks up there are really nice and put them aside for me," he said. "I do a little bit of dumpster diving and get a couple out of the metal pile up there."

Since the spring, he's fixed up at least 250 bikes to send to children in remote communities in northern Canada.

Charlton also receives donations of used bikes and occasionally picks a few up from thrift shops that he then fixes.

"I still remember the joy of having my first bike way back when, it's just a certain piece of freedom that you have as a kid," he told CBC host of Daybreak South Chris Walker.

Polar Bike Project

He works with the Polar Bike Project, a volunteer organization started by former Calgarian Ali Harper in 2015.

She was living in Nunavut at the time and was known around the community in Kugluktuk for biking everywhere.

One afternoon, she went for a ride with a group of local children and noticed one of the young boys didn't have a bike.

"We had an old bike that had been sitting outside our house," Harper said. "It definitely didn't fit him at all but he rode the bike and I've never seen a kid so happy to have a bike."

She posted on social media, calling on friends and family to donate bikes they weren't using, and the project was born.

Two years later, the organization has donated hundreds of bikes around Nunavut and is now expanding across the north.    

Most of the bikes Doug Charlton has fixed are still in B.C. They will be sent to northern Canada in the spring once a place has been found to store the bikes while they are being distributed. (Doug Charlton)

'Heart and soul'

Charlton discovered the project online early last year and reached out with an offer to help.   

"He's put his heart and soul into it," Harper said. "Doug is our main guy."

Many of the bikes that Charlton has fixed are in storage and will be shipped to children in Nunavut, Yukon and the Northwest Territories in the spring.

Charlton hopes to help deliver the bikes himself.

"It would be fantastic to meet the kids and see them get these bikes," he said.

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

With files from Daybreak South.