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Year's End Threatens to Be End of the Trail for Bike Charity

"The bicycles certainly help in long walks, and [help people] avoid paying for buses and transportation from remote areas," said Tom Ford, who runs a Panama program that has received hundreds of Pedals for Progress bikes from Washington.

Plus, Ford said, "bikes run in rain and sun, and we have nine months of rainy season."

Keith Oberg, of the local Pedals for Progress, in Springfield lot where bikes are kept in trailers. (Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)

Oberg, who was working for a small government agency call the Inter-American Foundation, set up a Washington area branch of Pedals for Progress as a volunteer in 1995. In 2000, he left his job to run the program full time.

As it has grown, Oberg's bicycle program has had difficulty finding a home in the increasingly crowded close-in suburbs, where the group, which has about 400 volunteers, does the bulk of its bike collections. After stints in Arlington and elsewhere in Springfield, Pedals for Progress settled into the Giant site in June 2002.

But Giant gave up its lease this year, and Oberg has to move again.

Giant, which has also donated four trailers to Pedals for Progress, said it is trying to find Oberg another site but so far hasn't come up with one that works for the group.

"We do want to work with him," said Giant spokesman Barry Scher. "It's a great project."

The group's hunt for a new home has led Oberg to query real estate companies, churches, trucking companies and moving firms. He has approached Metro and the Fairfax County Department of Economic Development.

But the real estate boom has made property so valuable that empty lots or aged warehouses that might have worked are now sprouting office buildings.

"Unfortunately now, because of economic trends, warehouse space or industrial space close to the Beltway is very scarce and expensive," Oberg said.

Two groups are holding bike donation events this weekend for Pedals for Progress: Westmoreland Congregational Church in Bethesda and the Langley School in McLean. Then the contents of Oberg's five trailers will be shipped to Panama.

After that, Pedals for Progress's Washington operations might close up shop.

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