Making a difference, one bike at a time - Renew | Repurpose

20 April 2020

Making a difference, one bike at a time

Peter Howe, a British Empire Medal recipient and retired police officer, has re-furbished more than 750 bikes that have gone to people in need.

Personally speaking, the benefits and the satisfaction come from the fact that I am doing something for someone else. — Peter

 

Photo by Asya Vee on Unsplash

Peter and his lovely bride of 57 years, Barbara, live in the village of Normanby in North Yorkshire, England. Cancer causes are near and dear to their hearts—perhaps because they’ve both suffered from this disease, as has their granddaughter, Laura.

Peter started fundraising for cancer charities back in the 80s. Through the years, he has participated in cycling events around the world and raised more than a million pounds for worthy causes.

During his police years, Peter was known as The Bike Man. Sometime around 1985—after realizing too many bikes were being thrown out for the scrap man—he started refurbishing unwanted bicycles. 

As kids outgrew their bikes or received new ones, Peter inherited the old ones. He often had thirty or more bicycles in his repair shop in various stages of roadworthy-ness. 

Each refurbished set of wheels found a new home and any donated funds, as a result, went to support children’s cancer charities.

I have always been there for folks who wanted their bike sorting out. — Peter

Romania, Poland, and Africa connections 

Hearing of his work, two non-profit organizations contacted Peter and began transporting his refurbished bikes to other places in the world.

As a result, there are amazing stories from people in third world areas whose lives were changed because of a pre-owned bike in good working order—grateful doctors, nurses, teachers, children, African wildlife wardens, and even the mayor of a town in Poland.

The Romania Connection. Peter knew Pastor Warmsley from his early police years. Warmsley established the charity Children in Distress at a time when the Romanian dictator Ceaușescu relegated children with HIV/AIDS to orphanages “that were worse than prisons.”

Pastor Warmsley and his team of volunteers were granted the administration of the St. Laurence orphanage at Cernavoda. It is now dedicated to working with incurably and terminally ill children, those with HIV/AIDS or autism, and the physically handicapped. 

Peter’s bikes were included on the list of needs for the children and the orphanage workers.

And then doctors, nurses, and teachers sent messages back to England requesting bikes with mudguards, or bikes with baskets or panniers, so they could visit their patients and carry their books and files. 

 

St. Lawrence Orphanage, Chernavoda, Romania

The Poland Connection. Colin Appleyard, a businessman in one of the areas Peter policed, established the charity, Aid to Poland. Peter got involved when he learned bikes were needed. He also managed to locate unwanted wheelchairs, which—after a bit of sprucing up—were sent off to Poland.  

The Africa Connection. When it became clear that the local tribesmen who served as African wildlife wardens could patrol more efficiently with bicycles, some of Peter’s refurbished bikes were transported to Africa. 

Volunteers from the organizations kept diaries of distribution and any notable tales for their quarterly reports. With so many wonderful stories pouring back in, Peter put together a presentation. These talks continue to generate many thousands of pounds sterling for the chosen supported cause. 

And now you know why Peter was awarded the British Empire Medal for meritorious civil service worthy of recognition by the Crown.

Thousands of miles

A longtime friend called Peter and told him that his son’s bike was hanging on the garage wall. “He wanted rid of it. So I went round and on seeing the bike, I knew it was an expensive hand built legendary make—a Hardisty.” Peter refurbished it and his first outing with the Hardisty was from Land’s End, the southernmost point, to John O’Groats, the northernmost tip of the United Kingdom—a thousand miles. 

And speaking of the LEJOG, Peter has completed this run three times. In addition, he’s cycled in Mexico, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Viet Nam, and 4,500 miles across America—all while raising funds for cancer and leukemia causes.

When Peter thinks back through the years and the stories, he couldn’t be happier:

I thank Father God for motivating me to use those God-given skills. I have been so blessed.

 

What if?

Peter says that “if more folk were to know just what giving in service voluntarily can do to make a difference, they would experience such joy.”

But they have to step out of their comfort zone and get their hands dirty.

Which begs the question: What if we could step out of our comfort zones and get our hands dirty?

What if we could use our God-given skills to make life a little easier for other people?

One bike at a time. One meal at a time. One encouraging note at a time. One act of kindness at a time. 

From his experience, Peter knows we would be blessed in the process.

14 Comments
  • Peggy Carey says:

    Such a nice story Marlys. So happy for your new love and upcoming marriage. Love to you and all the best in your new married life!

  • Barbara Winterfeld says:

    Thank you, Marlys for sharing a story of my dear friend, Peter. He truly is amazing; George & I we’re so blessed to know him and his sweetie, Barbara. This is a story I hadn’t heard before.

    • Barbara, what a delightful story to tell! Thank you for “introducing” Peter and me. (There’s more to the story, of course, but space didn’t allow for all that Peter shared with me.)

  • Another heartwarming story, Marlys. Thank you for featuring The Bike Man. For sure there is joy in serving others.

  • I heard from Peter after his story posted:

    “In the last 2 weeks, I’ve been asked to repair, service, fix 4 bikes. In our neighbourhood we have a Community help blog and there was a request ‘help needed to fix son’s bike’, so I responded, saying I would help. That bike came around and it needed a fair bit of TLC, but in the early summer of our back garden.. I was in my comfort zone… job done, bike collected, satisfied.. and a donation with thanks.

    “There was a thank you on the blog and next day, another request… help needed, to fix 2 bikes, so that was another satisfied (grand dad this time) and a further donation, with thanks.

    “Today, yet another request to help. So this Nurses bike was fixed AND I’m so pleased that I got my hands dirty working on this bike… it wasn’t in a very roadworthy condition, I dread thinking about the nurse trying to ride her ‘potential death trap’. BUT I am truly at ease, now the job has been done. Another small but appreciated donation.

    “Now Marlys, I must ask, ‘Did you pray for some more activity for this bike man’… I’m thinking this won’t be the last of this ‘happening’, so be it. God has used those skills again and therapy, it surely is, thank the Lord.”

    • Peter says:

      It’s like a session of ‘letters from America’, for us, we so appreciate your blog & we know your readers do, thanks as always. Looks like… ‘the bike man…. still liveth’!, thanking Father God. Stay well, stay safe & keep doing what you do best. Bx P & family.

  • sally slick says:

    What a wonderful man! Thanks for sharing his story and for your, as always, wise words!

  • Allison McCormick says:

    Marlys,

    What an amazing story, such a creative way to be used by God (repairing unwanted bikes). I also enjoyed the follow-up from Peter after this story was posted. I just love watching God work.

  • Jorge Sanchez says:

    Marlys,
    I met Peter & his wife many years ago during a ride in California from the Oregon border to San Francisco. At that time, I had my only daughter battling a rare form of cancer that was not from any family history and just came out of nowhere. Riding with Peter and sharing stories with this extraordinary human being was a gift from God and an experience that I will cherish always. He shared his experiences about himself and how cancer had affected him and his family and his efforts to raise funds with his family for cancer research. We were able to get my daughter and Laura to communicate by email,and it was such a blessing for my daughter to have that communication full of light and love! My daughter passed away in 2004 and I continue to correspond with Peter whom I will forever consider as a dear friend and always wanting to know about his whereabouts and his well being. He shared this forum with me and sharing these times of inspiration we shared gives us all hope for a better future despite this current Covid 19 pandemic. Keep spreading the love and it will inspire many more to come forth and share hope!

    • I’m so sorry for your loss, Jorge, but I love the story of how you met Peter and how your daughter and his granddaughter corresponded with each other. Thank you for sharing that with us, and for your encouraging words. Blessings!


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About Me

Hello, my name is Marlys Johnson. I’m a speaker, award-winning writer, cancer widow, and Chai tea snob. I love getting outdoors; would rather lace up hiking boots than go shopping. I have a passion for encouraging people to live well in the hard and holy moments of life. With heart wide open.

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