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The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Bikes for fitness, beautification

  • The Harrisburg portion of the Tunnel Hill Bike Trail has been a bit brighter in recent days.
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  • The Harrisburg portion of the Tunnel Hill Bike Trail has been a bit brighter in recent days.
    Seven new additions came seemingly out of nowhere on about July 18, baffling and charming residents. Bicycles painted in bright, solid colors from the tips of their handlebars to the bottom of their tires appeared. Each had a basket attached to the handlebars and in each basket was a bright bouquet of synthetic flowers.
    Questions popped up on Facebook and so we asked on The Daily Register Facebook page if anyone knew who was responsible.
    Responses came quickly. The painted bicycles had not gone unnoticed.
    “They are beautiful. I wish someone would put something like that on bike paths in Eldorado,” Christina Robbins-Elderbrook posted.
    One writer said she wanted to leave a note of thanks.
    “I hope someone recognizes it their awesome. I wanted leave a ty note lol An so creative with old bikes,” Paula Mason Hicks posted.
    And then one response took the mystery to another level.
    “Yes Cave In Rock has several. Hbg has 3 or 4 that I've seen,” Amy Casteel Beupre posted.
    It appeared the painting of old bikes as decoration was a regional fad, until Marcia Tomichek Casteel’s post indicated Harrisburg’s bikes may be a product of a national movement.
    “When I went to Sarasota Fla this summer, people had those everywhere there. Good to see it here and great idea to whoever did it!!” Casteel posted.
    It is obvious to anyone who sees them the bikes are decorative. Painted in solid yellow or blue or red or purple, they stand as statues or monuments. But the intent and the guilty party was not clear to the newspaper until Tuesday afternoon.
    Mona Nelson’s post suggested who had done it and Greg Harris’ affirmed Nelson’s statement.
    “It was Harold and Julie Wilson, they placed one at each path, they deserve a pat on the back for being so community minded,” Mona Nelson posted.
    As it turns out, the mystery was not that complicated. Facebook readers had solved it in its entirety without even knowing it.
    Harold Wilson, owner of WKI, when contacted at his business quickly admitted to being an accomplice, and almost as quickly gave up the mastermind — his wife, Julie.
    Julie thought she could get away undetected, but said enough friends, family and neighbors seen the painted bikes in her yard that she knew her enterprise was to be a poorly-kept secret.
    “I tried to be anonymous, but it didn’t turn out that way,” Julie said.
    Page 2 of 3 - Her motive?
    “To bring a few smiles to some faces,” she said.
    “That was the idea, just to promote the bike trail in Harrisburg, add color and a little humor, too,” Harold said.
    She and Harold found seven bikes for sale at a yard sale, each selling for $5 and each in a poor, unrideable state.
    Each bike required three cans of spray paint, a cheap basket and a flower bouquet.
    There was no great riddle in the link to Cave-In-Rock. Julie had seen the bikes in Cave-In-Rock and that gave her the idea.
    “We have a place down on the Ohio River and a woman there has several bikes in a small area,” Julie said.
    Julie admitted to the Cave-In-Rock bike decorator she had stolen her idea.
    “But she said she had seen it in Punta Gorda, Florida,” Julie said.
    A Cave-In-Rock resident visited Florida, saw a decorating idea, brought it to Hardin County where a Harrisburg resident was also inspired. But the bike painting trend extends even beyond those locales. A Google search for “painted bicycles” reveals there has been controversy in New York over bicycles painted orange chained at bike racks with the intent to promote physical fitness. And authorities are hauling them away since they are inoperable and chained to public property. There is also a somber bike painting tradition of people painting bikes white and calling them “ghost bikes” as tribute to bicyclers who have been killed enjoying their sport.
    But apparently there is a whimsical trend, too, of painting old bikes bound for the scrapyard to use as yard ornaments.
    “I’ve heard since then of other communities doing it. My thought was just to kind of promote the bike path,” Julie said.
    “I thought that would start a trend and other businesses might pick it up and go with it and it would be a sort of thing where we could say, ‘Come to Harrisburg and see the bikes, see the bike path.’”
    Will the bikes remain? So far, the track record is not good. Starting out with seven bikes, only four remain. As of Tuesday morning those are a blue bike at the north end of the trail at the Small Street Veterans Drive intersection, a red one at the intersection with Raymond Street, a yellow one at the south at Feazel Street and U.S. Route 45 and a purple one where the path approaches Harrisburg Middle School.
    The rest have been taken, though they have little value.
    “There’s more in the paint than they can get from the bike,” Harold said.
    Page 3 of 3 - “I’m not going to get upset about a handful of kids,” Julie said.
    She thinks someone might have taken them for a bit of scrap metal.
    Regardless of the whether the bikes remain or businesses decorate with painted bicycles, the Wilsons have made a statement. People have paid attention to the bike path and have a new decorating idea.
    “It was something I was kind of proud of,” Julie said.
    People have asked her if she asked permission to place the bikes.
    “My husband has always kind of gone with ‘do it first and ask permission later,’” she said.
    Harrisburg Police Chief Bob Smith said if residents complain about the bikes the department would have no choice but to look into the matter, but did not appear to be greatly concerned Tuesday. He was not aware of any of the bikes being an obstruction.
    Wilson said she was concerned the bikes could cause a problem for mowers so sprayed weed killer underneath so grass would not grow beneath them.

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