Rescuing Cordova’s orphaned bikes

Working with PD, mechanics restore and rehome abandoned bikes

Bicycle mechanic Lee Collins tunes up a previously abandoned bicycle at Cordova Gear outdoor sports store. (April 5, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Outdoor sports store Cordova Gear is working with police to patch up abandoned bikes and return them to the road.

Every year, bikes are found abandoned on roadsides around Cordova and turned in to the Cordova Police Department. If no one reports a bike missing for a year after it’s found, the bike is officially considered abandoned. Occasionally, bikes are also left at the doorstep of the police department, though this method is not recommended, Police Chief Nate Taylor said.

Most abandoned bikes are left exposed to the elements for weeks or months, and are unrideable by the time police take custody of them. However, Cordova Gear’s bicycle mechanics are now taking a look through the approximately 10 bikes held by the department, identifying those that could effectively be refurbished.

Once bikes are refurbished, it’s tentatively planned that they’ll be distributed for free to members of the public via a random drawing held by Cordova Gear. It’s hoped that the first drawing will be held around May, said bike mechanic and Cordova Gear owner Natasha Casciano.

“Sometimes it’s hard for people to afford a bike, so we’re trying to increase the population base that can get and ride a bike,” Casciano said.

The Cordova Police Department has stored some abandoned bicycles for as long as four years. (April 7, 2021) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

The first bike repaired under the program was a blue cruiser bike in need of a new chain and new cables and brake pads. The bike, which was received by Cordova Gear around the end of March, required about a week of tinkering and test-riding to return to working order. However, the blue cruiser bike was one of the less severely damaged bikes held by the police department, bicycle mechanic Lee Collins said. Bikes that have spent more time exposed to weather will take more time to restore. Bikes with cracked frames or potentially dangerous problems may be unrestorable, Casciano said.

“This one’ll ride nice,” Collins said while tuning up the blue cruiser bike. “You can get by on a bike that doesn’t function perfectly, but it’s more enjoyable if it shifts through all the gears, if the brakes allow you to slow down well… We have such a scenic place here that a bike’s a really nice way to get out and see it.”

Additionally, by equipping new bike riders, Cordova Gear may be creating new customers. Like many other Cordova businesses, the store struggled through much of 2020. However, the $1 million Cordova Cash payment card program rolled out by the city in November helped revive business, Casciano said. Now that more customers are coming in and the store has returned to offering walk-in service, the future seems less uncertain, she said.

“I’m optimistic that we’ll continue to grow slowly and organically,” Casciano said.

Cordova Gear continues to offer personal shopper and curbside pickup services. The store does not accept drop-off donations of bikes, Casciano said.