First grader Christopher Minard cruised through Collingswood's PATCO parking lot on a silver Pacific bicycle, testing its fit, brakes, and gears.
"How is it?" called his mother, Valerie, a borough resident.
Christopher's bike was stolen recently, so the family sought an inexpensive loaner from the borough's new bike-share program, which is housed in a lime-green garage in the shadow of the High-Speed Line off Collins Avenue.
For $25, Bike Share outfitted Christopher for a year.
"It's a great program," said Valerie Minard, whose family takes advantage of the group's free maintenance on privately owned bikes. "We hadn't ridden our bikes in 20 years, then we stopped by here and had them tuned up."
Collingswood Bike Share came together last summer after several years of planning when Borough Commissioner Joan Leonard persuaded the Police Department to donate about 50 unclaimed bicycles. Bike mechanic Rich Everill of Camden set to motion the program's motto: "Reuse, Repair, Re-cycle."
He built a fleet of 30 by tuning the best bikes and salvaging parts from the rest. Leonard sought private donations and recruited members.
"It's a good introduction to biking if you don't want to spend the big bucks," Everill said.
In October, about 40 riders circled the borough's Knight Park on the rejuvenated bicycles - spray-painted an easily identifiable lime green - and their own wheels to introduce the program.
Since then, about 65 residents have signed up, paying the $25 annual fee to "check out" one bike for up to a year or to exchange cycles as often as they like. They're encouraged to wear a helmet and offered discounts on locks and water bottles. Everill e-mails reminders about tune-ups. In all, Leonard estimates, about 250 people have participated.
Bike sharing - generally geared toward short-term use - is popular all over Europe. Sturdy cycles are locked to kiosks spread throughout cities such as Oslo, Barcelona, and Vienna. Paris launched one of the largest programs in 2007 with 20,000 bicycles. Programs are run by nonprofit groups and city governments, as well as for-profit companies such as Clear Channel Outdoor, that participate in exchange for advertising on shelters or benches.
At least 70 U.S. universities, including Drexel, run free and rental programs, according to the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education.
Washington, D.C., launched SmartBike last summer. Boston and San Francisco are investigating proposals, as is Philadelphia. A feasibility study is due to Mayor Nutter by fall.
Collingswood, with a population of about 14,000, couldn't manage anything as elaborate as larger cities, organizers said.
"We don't have the capacity to check out bikes for a day," Everill said. "We're only here twice a week."
They built support in the borough Police, Recreation, and Public Works Departments and attracted $1,000 in seed money from Proud Neighbors of Collingswood, Collingswood Municipal Alliance, and the Rotary Club. Collingswood Hardware sold them parts and locks at cost.
Over time, membership fees are expected to cover the minimal costs, said Leonard, the borough commissioner.
Everill drafted 10 friends and his girlfriend as mechanics, and Leonard recruited middle-school helpers at an Earth Day assembly.
On Tuesday, volunteers Sean Wyatt, 14, and Will Bickle, 13, adjusted seats, replaced handlebars, and tinkered with chains. They plan to be back all summer.
"We like bikes," Wyatt said. "It gives us something to do."
Mechanic Sam Creveling, 22, of Camden, worked on a similar project called Bike Church at St. Mary's Episcopal in West Philadelphia, part of the Neighborhood Bike Works Program. There, mechanics repair old bikes for resale at affordable prices.
He and mechanic Stephen MacDavid, 19, of Collingswood, use their bikes as primary transportation. MacDavid is "holding out" from getting a driving permit, he said.
Through donations, Collingswood's inventory of children's and adult bicycles is now more than 100, Everill said. Older models are easier to adapt and repair, he said.
So far, the program has lost just three cycles to theft, Everill said - twice in Philadelphia and once from a porch in Collingswood. All were reported to police.
"People have been very responsible," Leonard said. All Bike Share cycles are registered with borough police.
Collingswood started bike sharing as part of its "Go Green!" initiative, which includes subsidized rain barrels and compost bins, an enhanced recycling program, and new policies on pesticide-free zones and cleaning products. The borough held its first Green Festival in April.
"We still have a ways to go to reduce car use and improve health and fitness," she said.