Updated 05/30/2012 06:06 PM
The gift of transportation: Queensbury man donates bikes to foreign workers
Before cars, before planes and even before fancy new running shoes were invented, there was the bicycle. While it may not be the most modern form of transportation, YNN's Matt Hunter found out it's created a bond between a Queensbury man and dozens of foreign workers who call Lake George home each summer.
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QUEENSBURY, N.Y. – "There's no set procedure, but I take my toothbrush and my oilers and start with the chains, generally."
On most days, you can find Bob Flanagan in the same space: His basement workshop. For hours on end, the retired GE engineer tinkers away on old bicycle after old bicycle.
"Some of these bicycles come to me in a considerable state of disrepair,” Flanagan said. “Many times, it's only the frame of the bicycle that I'm able to use."
Flanagan, who lives in Queensbury, began his hobby about 10 years ago. His next door neighbors, who own the Travel Lodge Motel in Lake George, came to him with two rusty old bikes and asked him to fix them up for a pair of the hotel's seasonal foreign workers.
"They brought up in a van with them from Texas,” Flanagan said. “I had enough mechanical knowledge that I cleaned them up, oiled those two bicycles up."
For many of the motel's international staff, who spend summers working two jobs in Lake George, the bikes became their only means of transportation.
Aleksander Spikoski, 24, a Macedonian graduate student, is spending his fourth summer working in Lake George.
"Walking down to my second job, it's like 35 minutes,” Spikoski said. “If I take my bike, it will be just five minutes."
Before long, two bikes became 10 and a decade later, Flanagan says he's repaired, refurbished and donated more than 50 to the motel's staff. Outside of the staff dormitory, it's a virtual two-wheel traffic jam with nearly 20 bikes parked in front.
"Everybody has one bike,” Spikoski said. “All of the time, if something is going wrong with the bike, we'll call Bob and the bike will be fixed the next day."
Relying on donations and police auctions, Flanagan's basement has enough frames and parts to fix up nearly a dozen more bikes this summer. It's a seemingly never ending project that continues to bond him with young people who are thousands of miles away from the comforts of home.
"We still need some help getting around here and he's helping all of us," Spikoski said.
"I don't know why [I do it],” Flanagan said. “Other than it feels good to see the smile of a young person that otherwise would not have transportation."