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More than 500 abandoned bicycles were tagged for removal during an Earth Day roundup organized by service members' spouses at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
More than 500 abandoned bicycles were tagged for removal during an Earth Day roundup organized by service members' spouses at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. (Jonathan Snyder/Stars and Stripes)
More than 500 abandoned bicycles were tagged for removal during an Earth Day roundup organized by service members' spouses at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
More than 500 abandoned bicycles were tagged for removal during an Earth Day roundup organized by service members' spouses at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. (Jonathan Snyder/Stars and Stripes)

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — Abandoned bicycles, forlorn and rusted, sagging on flattened tires, add up over time to a multitude of eyesores on this air station south of Hiroshima.

A volunteer effort this spring collected hundreds of those bicycles that ultimately may be sold for scrap. The proceeds will go toward programs that benefit service members, such as free gear rental at the base outdoor recreation office, according to MCAS Iwakuni spokesman Maj. Joshua Diddams.

Marine Corps spouse Tracy Lupient took part in the roundup on Earth Day, April 22. The project started in a conversation with Shannon Wiltshire, a Navy spouse, about doing something to get rid of all the bikes stacked around the base. From there, Wiltshire organized the event with help from the Single Marine Program, Lupient said.

“I think the event turned out well, people were really willing to help out,” she said in a phone interview Wednesday.

The daylong roundup took in scores of bikes, but there’s work left to be done.

“We have tagged about 524 bikes and collected about 136 bikes so far,” Marine Sgt. Timothy Pendley of the Provost Marshal’s Office told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday. “We are looking at doing another upcoming volunteer opportunity to collect the remaining bikes.”

This abandoned bicycle, recently tagged for removal at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, is one of hundreds that may be sold for scrap to raise money for programs that help service members.
This abandoned bicycle, recently tagged for removal at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, is one of hundreds that may be sold for scrap to raise money for programs that help service members. (Jonathan Snyder/Stars and Stripes)

Bicycles are a common mode of transportation for junior enlisted Marines and sailors who cannot qualify for a car while they serve at MCAS Iwakuni. But too many bikes are left behind when their owners take to sea or move on to their next duty station.

“What about the Marines and sailors that are deployed,” Marine Cpl. John Boyle wrote in a Facebook comment about the bike roundup. “How can we make sure that their bikes aren’t recycled?”

Cyclists who register their bikes with the Provost Marshal’s Office can prevent the bike from being impounded, Diddams said. The provost marshal will tag unregistered bikes and collect them after 72 hours if they remain unclaimed. The bikes are kept 45 days in an impound lot and will be recycled if still unclaimed.

The bikes collected in April may be donated and reused, Diddams said. However, they must be requested by a nonprofit organization.

Another idea, brought forth by Frank Geisler on the Facebook post, is to create a bike-share program with some of the abandoned bikes, similar to one instituted a decade ago at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The base started the program with 50 blue beach cruisers, according to the 62nd Wing Public Affairs.

“That's another great suggestion!” Diddams said in response to Geisler. “We're looking into what options we have both legally and logistically.”

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