PEMBROKE, ONT. -- A COVID bicycle project in Pembroke has hit a milestone of delivering 100 free bicycles to members of the community.

The Bike Bank project was founded back in March at the height of the demand for bicycles during the pandemic. Its goal was to take in donated bicycles, refurbish them, and give them out to children in Renfrew County who didn’t have one or needed one.

"So we saw that as a group, there’s going to be a need for bikes," says Adam Yantha, one of the founders of the program, its lead mechanic, and the owner of Yantha Cycles in Pembroke. "As people's incomes may be getting shortened or taken away completely there might be a need for bicycles as transportation."

The program started with a donation of 30 bicycles from the Upper Ottawa Valley OPP, and since then as continued to roll on with community donations.

"Some people I think they just grew out of their bike or had no use for it, their kids' bikes," says Yantha. "Some of these bikes are as good as three, four hundred dollar bicycles we’ve seen."

One of the families that have directly benefitted from the Bike Bank is the Graves family, who live just across the street from Yantha.

"I go out every day," says Derek Graves, who received three bikes for himself and his sons a week ago, and is waiting on another two for the rest of his family. "(My sons) try to get out every day, they’re getting on (the trail). But once we get all the bikes, then I’ll force them all out and get some exercise and family time."

"We’ve been trying to get out on the trail, we’ve been using it a lot now," says 13-year-old Zach Graves. "It’s one of my favourite things to do is bike."

The Bike Bank is supported by volunteers through the Ottawa Valley Cycling and Active Transportation Alliance. The group started the project to help the region’s children get more active and about town, but now adults and families are leaning more on the program.

"We were there before we knew it," says Ron Moss, the group’s co-chair, on reaching the 100th donation mark. "There was a lot of families; for four kids, you can imagine the costs of buying new bikes or even used bikes for four kids."

"Bikes are bikes," says Zack’s twin brother Adam Graves, when asked if he was looking for a specific kind of bike. "As long as we can get out there and go on the trails and stuff, that’s what we’re looking for, and it’s great to have these bikes."

"There’s tons of families and people out there that can benefit from this and will benefit from this," says their father Derek. "And I think it builds a stronger community."

Those interested in learning more, looking to donate, or contact the Bike Bank, can visit bikebank.ca.