Runnin’ with Rani: Paying It Forward and Velofix to provide free bike repair services for students

  • Rani Henderson/Hawaii Sport Events Nick Nelson teaches Cole Henderson how to properly clean and maintain his bike during a free repair service. )

  • Rani Henderson/Hawaii Sport Events Franz Weber, founder of Paying It Forward, and Nick Nelson, owner of Velofix, have teamed up to provide free bike repair services for students through their program, Be Safe on Bikes.

It’s hard to imagine that after all these months, kids may soon return to school in August receiving instruction selected from a variety of learning models outlined in the Department of Education’s reopening plan announced earlier this month.

For parents, that leaves just about a week to fill out necessary paperwork, purchase school supplies, and to figure out who in the family will be dropping off and picking up their child from school. And on days when their child is distance-learning from home, the question lingers about who will be available to offer guidance while parents navigate back into the workforce.

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The stress of it all can be overbearing. But there’s help, and just in time.

Paying It Forward West Hawaii, a nonprofit organization, and Velofix, a locally-owned mobile bike shop, have partnered to provide free bike repair services for students that may help to ease the burden of transportation. Their program is called Be Safe on Bikes.

“I think there may be more kids riding their bikes because there are not a lot of alternatives now in terms of exercising or doing normal activities due to COVID,” said Franz Weber, an avid cyclist and founder of Paying It Forward. “Many may now also have to ride their bike to school because parents are working or are not able to get them there (due to the varying school schedules).”

Weber said he recently came up with the idea of Be Safe on Bikes during his own bike ride that would specifically target those who are unable to repair their bikes due to current financial hardships. However, the free program would be available to all students.

“When I’m riding my bike, I’m always thinking of all kinds of ways on how we can improve things, how we can help, what needs to be done, and that was one of the ideas that I came up with,” he said. “Throughout the year, we teach kids how to ride a bike through PATH’s bike education program, but after they get their bikes they don’t get maintained. Now after a big summer break, kids are getting ready to go back to school and there are those who actually need to ride their bike to school.”

Weber added that with so many things to worry about, making sure children are safe while riding their bike is crucial. That’s when he reached out to Nick Nelson who immediately agreed to help.

Nelson, a certified bike mechanic, cycling advocate and owner of Velofix, has operated his mobile bike shop for the last five years and is often seen driving his red Velofix van throughout town to meet his client’s needs upon demand.

“Paying it Forward will be covering the cost of labor of the bike service and all minor repairs if need be,” Weber said. “The basic things like brakes, lights, tire pressure, and bike chains. If there are minor things to be fixed, we will do it right away. Otherwise, we will tell the kids and their family what needs to be done. We will try to go through as many bikes as we can in about a two-hour frame.”

Weber is hoping to get four to five schools from Honaunau to Kealakehe to participate in the program that will run during August, the start of the new school year when kids will need their bikes the most.

“We will work with the schools, their scheduling, and whatever works for them,” Weber said. “I am up for being flexible as I want to make sure this Be Safe on Bikes Program works. I would like the schools to reach out to tell me when would be a good time.”

Ideally, Weber and Nelson will provide two-hour time slots for each school and be set up safely in the parking lot where there would be enough space for students to drop off and pick up their bikes. Services will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis, with social distancing protocols and constant sanitizing of equipment conducted at all times.

“It’s all about the kids, that’s always the main thing,” Weber said. “Everything else is secondary.”

Weber founded Paying It Forward West Hawaii earlier in the year, a nonprofit organization designed to provide a platform to help raise funds and have it readily available to offer immediate assistance to any child in need and their family, regardless of the situation, and not restricted by any general guidelines.

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Weber said that since the start of his nonprofit, he has received 57 inquiries for assistance that resulted to successfully helping 80 “at risk” children who were in need. From purchasing Chromebooks and clothing to child car seats and wheelchairs to school supplies and nutritious snacks for the children of Kahaluu Housing Project, Weber says Paying It Forward is all about “helping to improve the lives of children, one child at a time.”

Schools interested in participating in the Be Safe on Bike Program can contact Franz Weber via his email at fweber@unfi.com. To learn more about Paying It Forward West Hawaii visit https://fim20209.wixsite.com/pif-wh. For more information about Velofix Hawaii contact Nick Nelson at 785-5159.

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