MURPHYSBORO — In the open garage shed, Timothy Harper has eighth-grader Mariella Darnell read numbers from a sheet, then he goes to double-check that the bike is among the two dozen or so laying or standing on the shed's floor.

When a match is made, he — or student Drake Rogus — takes that bike and stands it up on one side of the shed, bike handles down, wheels up in the air.

The bikes have just been delivered by the Murphysboro Police Department to the Murphysboro Middle School Bike Club, whose members will repair or salvage parts from the bikes or sell the refurbished other bikes to benefit the club. The bikes are surplus bikes from the police department, which had had them for at least six months and been unable to locate their owners, with some also being bikes formerly used by the Murphysboro Police Department.

This work represents a multi-agency relationship, all around the issue of bicycling, not just for youth involved, but in the community, which is continuing to grow as a bike city.

It was 15 years ago that middle school teacher Mary Beth Aguilar created the Murphysboro Middle School Bike Club. Each year, the club has had a number of students, anywhere from the two dozen to the 59 it has today.

She offers it as not only a chance for youth to learn about bicycling and about repairing bikes, but also to experience nature in this area and to use bicycling to help them complete community service projects.

It's one of the reasons that youth like Aaron Rebman join the club. At the club's meeting this past Tuesday, he helped to rake up leaves alongside the fence area at the club's bike garage.

The club's influence could be growing.

The roughly two dozen bikes donated to the club from the Murphysboro Police Department came through a suggestion made by one of its newest volunteers, officer Harper. The group had had a volunteer from the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, but that deputy is no longer involved.

Murphysboro Police Chief Chad Roberts said he encouraged his officers to become involved in the community in some aspect. Harper, one of the department's newer officers, was already interested in bicycling; Roberts said he had received a request for help from Aguilar, but had no one who fit for what she was requesting.

Until Officer Harper.

"He has really just (taken this to a different level)," Roberts said. "He's a very good example of what happens when police officers get involved in the community."

The group is also benefiting from a $1,000 bike kiosk, compliments of the Jackson County Health Department, whose officials chose to install the item outside the Murphysboro Middle School. The Dero Fix-It Bike Station is a slender upright-standing bar contraption, with tools for repairing a bike attached to it by cables. The top of the Dero Fix-It station is designed to hold a bike positioned there so an individual can work on his or her bike.

A user can take out their smartphone and use it to read a bar code on the Dero Fix-It Station to access a list of videos on YouTube that lead one in making bike repairs.

In addition to the repair station, the Jackson County Health Department also had a metal, apple-shaped bike rack installed at the middle school and also installed a Fix-It Station at the Boys and Girls Club and another Fix-It Station and bike rack at the De Soto Middle school.

There are seven other Dero Fix-It Stations on the campus of Southern Illinois University, according to Michelle McLernon, director of Health Education for the health department.

"Our ultimate goal was to increase physical activity and develop active transportation system through changes in the built environment that promote a bicycle-friendly environment," McLernon said.


On Twitter: @scribeest



Stephanie Esters is a reporter covering Jackson and Union counties.

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