Meet Wayne, Crescent Valley's bike king
Saint John mechanic Wayne King uses shop skills to fix bicycles to donate to children
Long before the full bloom of June, when a bike means wind and freedom to anyone under 10, Wayne King was checking the names on his wait list.
He had 90 kids looking for bikes in time for warmer weather and halfway through March, he still had lots of work to do.
"I have exactly, precisely 56 ready," said King, who works through the coldest months down in the basement of the Crescent Valley Resource Centre in Saint John's north end.
King was pointing to bikes that were cleaned and tagged and set apart from the misfits leaning in tangled rows.
Over the past seven years, the Saint John Bike Share Program has recycled more than 750 bikes — all donated by bike shops and families from all over the city and beyond.
Ten-speeds and mountain bikes and cruisers with baskets and ribbons, all wait in a jumble for new parts, repairs and tune-ups.
King sometimes has a child in mind for one particular bike, but he likes to give the kids a choice.
"The thing is, you don't know if that child's going to like that bike or that bike," he said. "They might want front shocks. They might not want a shifter. They might not want gears."
Having been in the job since 2019, King says it's a welcome change from the stress of working on cars and trucks in the city's bigger dealerships. He said four years of that had been hard on his head and his body. At 21, he needed surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.
"It's a lot of thrashing and banging and it's a very fast-paced environment," said King, now 32.
"And it's not gratifying in the way that giving bikes to children is."
It takes about $60,000 per year to operate the program.
Most of that goes to salary, says Craig Campbell, co-founder of the Saint John Bike Share Program committee. However, the cost of new helmets is also an ongoing concern. No bike is given away without one.
"They're about 30 to 40 dollars now," said Campbell. "And sometimes the bike shops help us there, too."
This year, most of the funding is coming from the province in the form of two grants: $50,000 from the Environmental Trust Fund and another $5,000 from the tourism department.
"We applied to a number of places," said Campbell. "You just don't know what will happen. There's always a bit of suspense about how we're going to carry on."
Also, the City of Saint John has agreed to contribute $10,000 toward the construction of a neighbourhood skills park designed for younger rides.
"It will help keep them off the street," said Campbell. "Away from the traffic and all."
King says this is the job that makes him happy and although other employers have expressed interest in hiring him, he plans to stay where he is.
"I love coming to this job, waking up every morning and coming here," said King.
Anyone who's interested in donating a bike in fair to good condition, can contact the CVRC through its website.
King says even older and damaged bikes can be stripped for parts.
"The screws for the water bottle holder, the derailleurs, the handlebar grips, brake levers, tires, rims, skewers, clamps," King says he'll salvage every piece he can and use them to make the other bikes work like new.
"I make sure everything shifts smoothly and I clean them up and I shine them all up so they look really good."
Tuesdays and Thursdays are repair days at CVRC. That's when anyone in the area can come to the outdoor shed and King will fix a bike at no cost to the owner.
On Wednesdays, he takes his repair shop on the road to Waterloo Village in the city centre, where he sets up in a shed at 758 Brunswick Dr.
"Usually when I'm there, I try to put up my flag," said King. "It says open."
Although the bike share program is based in Saint John's north end, it also has a satellite space at the Carleton Community Centre on the city's west side.
Campbell said their mission is to serve families in the greater Saint John region with a focus on the five priority neighbourhoods "because they're particularly hard hit by all kinds of issues — food issues, rent issues, that sort of thing."
Families who would like to register to receive a refurbished bike can contact the office at the CVRC or go to the web site.
King says he's always in need of 20 to 24-inch bikes for kids ages six to 12.
"The kids thank me," said King. "They're grateful … and then they're able to bike up to Lily Lake and Rockwood Park and stuff like that."