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Thursday, April 24, 2014         

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Give bike program a variance


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An inspiring program that has succeeded in steering youngsters away from the rougher elements in Kalihi Valley faces being shut down. The city should waste little time in granting a zoning variance needed to allow the program to continue its good work.

The Kalihi Valley Instructional Bike Exchange Program, or KVIBE, was opened in 2005 to attract young people to participate in the repair and recycling of their broken bicycles. The program has been highly successful.

The program works thusly: Community members donate old bikes in need of repairs to the shop, a former egg-processing plant. Youngsters aged 8 to 15 are taught how to repair the bikes, and the one who fixes a bike is allowed to keep it. About

30 bikes are reconditioned on average a month.

The shop is between the state's two largest housing projects - Kalihi Valley Homes and Kuhio Park Terrace - and attracts young people who steer away from trouble, helped by mentors and volunteers who teach mechanical skills and teamwork.

"A lot of people I went to elementary school with are in jail," volunteer Sylvester Supapo, 25, told the Star-Advertiser's Rosemarie Bernardo. "I learn something every time I come here. Learning is always good."

The shop's site was rezoned at some point from commercial to residential. City officials became aware of the nonconformity when a neighbor complained about noise from a broken air compressor. The compressor has been fixed, but KVIBE is in need of a zoning variance from the city Land Use Permit Division.

A rejection would force the operation to leave the spot and probably close, said program manager Matt Yee.

The pressure comes at a time when KVIBE has received an $84,000 grant from the state Department of Health's Healthy Hawaii Initiative to expand its program by establishing a traveling bike repair shop. The program is to promote bike safety and active lifestyles while providing the free repair services.

"Definitely, other kids would benefit from what they've done over the years," said Heidi Hansen-Smith, Healthy Hawaii Initiative's community outreach coordinator.

The decision to be made by the city on whether to grant the variance should be one of its easiest.






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