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Sunday, October 19, 2014         

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Complaint endangers bike program

Zoning rules could shutter a shop where youths are taught to repair two-wheelers

By Rosemarie Bernardo

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A program that teaches Kalihi youth how to fix bicycles -- and recently won an $84,000 state grant -- is in danger of being closed down.

The Kalihi Valley Instructional Bike Exchange Program, or KVIBE, is asking the city for a zoning variance so it can stay at its shop at 1638 Kamehameha IV Road.

The site, a former egg-processing plant in an area once zoned for commercial use, now has residential zoning. A neighbor's complaint about noise brought the program to the attention of city regulators.

If forced to leave the site, the program would likely be closed, program manager Matt Yee said.

At the shop yesterday afternoon, young people worked on bikes and said shutting down the program would be a big loss.

Volunteer Sylvester Supapo, 25, of Kalihi said without activities like the bike program, more teens could end up in jail.

"A lot of people I went to elementary school with are in jail," he said. "I learn something every time I come here. Learning is always good."

KVIBE began in 2005. Community members donate old bicycles, and young people are taught how to restore them. When a person completes a bike, he or she gets to keep it as a reward.

About 30 bikes are reconditioned and earned each month.

Yee said youth ages 8 to 15 with street smarts beyond their years learn mechanical skills and teamwork while receiving guidance from mentors and volunteers.

Joseph De Sagun, 14, of Kalihi said the program offers a fun place to hang out, especially during the summer.

"It gives us something to do when we have nothing to do," he said.

The site is between Kalihi Valley Homes and Kuhio Park Terrace, the state's two largest public housing projects. The program serves many young people from the projects and provides a haven where gang "colors" are restricted.

Teens overcome their differences and connect with peers and mentors in a positive way, said Dr. David Derauf, executive director of Kokua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services, which oversees the program.

Kokua Kalihi Valley officials are awaiting approval on the zoning variance at a time when they recently received an $84,000 grant from the state Department of Health's Healthy Hawaii Initiative.

Funds will be used to establish a traveling bike repair shop to offer free services and promote bike safety and active lifestyles in other communities, said Heidi Hansen-Smith, community outreach coordinator of the Healthy Hawaii Initiative. Workshops will be held for those interested in using the bike exchange program model for at-risk youth in other areas.

"Definitely, other kids would benefit from what they've done over the years," said Hansen-Smith.

The city is expected to make a decision on the zoning variance by Aug. 29, said Bob Bannister, acting chief of the city Land Use Permit Division.






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