Bettering lives with bikes

Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 3:37 p.m.
A semi-retired lawyer is making a difference in the lives of the less fortunate by providing bicycles to inmates at the work release center in east Gainesville and also to the homeless and disadvantaged.
"I got started with this while living in Palm Beach County several years ago," said 67-year-old David Basker, the owner of Beater Bikes of Gainesville, a bicycle charity.
"I was the public relations and community affairs director for the West Palm Beach Bicycle Club," Basker said. "I've always believed in my mind that this was a good thing to be doing."
Basker, who has been married to his wife, Gail, for 32 years, said for people like battered women and the homeless, a bike can make a world of difference in their lives.
"A bike beats walking," said Basker, who received his law degree from the University of Tennessee in 1968. "The buses here have bike racks on them, and that makes it very convenient for people who ride bikes. Bikes allow those people to meet other people, and to get a life."
"He has been donating bikes to us for a little over a month now," said Joe Lipsey, program manager for the Alachua County Court Services Work Release Program.
"He finds bikes, then repair them for our residents here," Lipsey said. "The primary mode of transportation for our residents is bicycles. The donated bikes have been beneficial to our program because it helps them get out into the community to find jobs."
Basker said he noticed that a lot of people have bikes that they don't ride anymore, and they are just sitting somewhere rusting. Currently, he is in the process of removing dozens of bikes from the back yard of a residence off NW 6th Street.
"We see perfectly good bikes in the trash, and that is ridiculous," Basker said. "I don't need them for me, but I can give them away.
"I'm going to get about three guys to help me load up a truck, and we are going to fix those things up," he said. "It will probably take us a couple of trips, but it will be worth it. Those are a lot of bikes."
Basker said repairing bikes is his hobby and that he has professional bike equipment.
He said he used to give bikes to recovering addicts, but became demoralized when he would find out that somebody sold a bike.
"A lot of people were irresponsible," he said. "They would sell bikes for crack. The bikes I give away are meant to help people out."
He said he gives away two to four bikes a month. He said he works closely with the Alachua County Coalition for the Homeless and Hungry, Fire of God Ministries and the Triangle Club.
Basker moved to Gainesville 2 years ago with his wife and son, Oliver, 22. The couple also have a 27-year-old daughter, Allison Jennifer Murphy.
Basker said he has traveled to LaCrosse to get bikes, and will travel any reasonable distance to get them.
Basker said he recently received bikes from a couple who just happens to be correctional officers.
"They were giving me bikes to give to people who they have to monitor," Basker said, adding that he takes his best bikes to the work release center.
He said work release inmates take care of their bikes, and that there are a lot of them who like to work on bikes.
"A lot of them love to ride bikes to work," Basker said.
Basker, who spent three years in the Marines from 1957-1960 as a sharp shooter, said he used to see little kids with bikes whose seats were either too low or high. He said he would pull over in his vehicle and offer to adjust the seats on the bikes.
"I want the time I have in this world to be about doing good things," Basker said. "I am living with ethical imperative."
If you have bikes you want to donate, contact Basker at (352) 375-4878.

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