LAWRENCE, Mass. — This city is a confluence of conditions that make its kids the most obese in Massachusetts.

High levels of poverty mean many families eat more fast food than fresh. High crime rates – six murders so far this year – cause parents to keep kids inside. Congested and pock-marked streets can be uninviting and even dangerous for children and adolescents looking for a place to play out their front doors.

John Riser sees the results daily at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, where the family physician runs support groups for overweight children.

“You talk to them and they say, ‘Oh, I have a bike. The tires are flat. The brakes aren’t working,'” said Riser, who also serves on the Lawrence Board of Health. “Minor things. It seemed like there was a real need. I started talking around, looking for a way to invest in the city and to promote health.”

Out of that came BiciCocina, a nonprofit bike shop that recently opened in a former train shed at Everett Mills, where it is refurbishing donated bikes, selling them for as little as $20 and this spring will begin teaching kids who take one home how to maintain and repair it and to ride it safely.

BiciCocina – which translates to “BikeKitchen,” a name that has been adopted by nonprofit bike shops across the United States – for now has just one employee and is open only on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The space it rents is unheated and the bathroom is next door and down the hall.

But Riser and the Merrimack Valley YMCA, which agreed to sponsor the program after meeting Riser, have ambitious plans.

More days will be added in the spring, when people begin to get what Riser called “the bike itch.” With that will come group rides, bike repair classes and a program that will allow would-be bikers to earn their own by working in the shop in a sort of sweat-equity for bicycles. BiciCocina also plans to advocate for biking in the region, beginning in Lawrence, which has no dedicated bike lanes on its streets.

“None,” Riser said. “Zero.”

The goal is to get kids to set aside their video games and decamp from their couches for the saddle of an 18-speed Schwinn or Bianchi – or even a skateboard, also available at BiciCocina – and head out on the trails that are proliferating around the region. In Lawrence, that includes the Spicket River Greenway, a 3.5 mile trail that opened last year.

Riser said the demand is high. A month after opening, BiciCocina has more than 400 Facebook friends. And when its volunteers set up what they call pop-up shops at street fairs and other events to sell bikes and make free repairs, the lines are long.

“Bike culture in general is undergoing a renaissance,” Riser said last week as he led a tour of the shop, a little chilly as a light snow fell outside. “We’ve had the experience when we go to events, that dozens and dozens of kids wait in line to work on their bike or to get a new bike or to work on their skateboard. We’ve been convinced there’s plenty of kids that want that freedom” bikes can provide.

The need became more urgent recently when the last two bike shops in the region – Wheels ‘N Reels on Broadway in Lawrence and Andover Cycle on North Main Street in Andover – closed. For a year or two, the nearest bike shops were in Haverhill and Salem, N.H.

BiciCocina was born in a Canal Street warehouse last summer, when it bought out the inventory of Park Sales and Service, a family owned bike shop in Somerville that went out of business in May. Those bikes and dozens of others donated since then were moved across the canal to the shop that opened last month off a parking lot at the far south end of the Everett Mills building. Today, the Trek, Schwinn, Bianchi and Specialized bikes hang from the red brick walls or are lined up in a tidy row stretching to the rear of the 1,200-square-foot floor, mixed in with other things on wheels that include tricycles, scooters and skateboards.

New and used saddles, locks, bells and other accessories hang from racks on the walls. Pliers, screwdrivers, truing forks and Allen wrenches are grouped on workbenches. Handlebars, stems, headsets, kickstands and reflectors are piled in overflowing cardboard boxes, including one topped by a set of training wheels. Tires are stacked waist high in a corner.

“Everything from this corner on, that’s where the surprises are,” said Karl Borne, the 36-year-old career cyclist from Medford who operates the shop and refurbishes the bikes, referring to what he sometimes finds in donated boxes of equipment. “New tape and grips – that’s a real plus. It can make any bike look new.”

“A lot come in like this,” he said, pointing to a rickety wreck that resembled a bike. “Covered in cobwebs. Dried cables. Rusty chains.”

“Flat tires,” injected Ann Whalen, the executive director of the Merrimack Valley YMCA, who joined the tour of the shop last week.

“Wobbly wheels,” Borne added, then nodded toward another bike. “This one has a lot of problems. Two or three hours of work to make it sellable.”

Heather McMann, executive director of Groundwork Lawrence, said there is a huge need for a program like BiciCocina in a city like Lawrence. In 2012, after working with teams of nurses in 80 public school districts, the state Department of Public Health reported that Lawrence schoolchildren are the most overweight of all. Of the 2,564 Lawrence students who were screened over two years, the study found that 46.6 percent were either overweight or obese.

“Anything that teaches skills and active transportation in a city with high obesity levels (is important),” McMann said, adding that BiciCocina has provided a dozen bikes to the Groundwork team that helps maintain city parks and community gardens. “It makes it easier for you to get back and forth between school and work and friends’ houses. It cuts down on the reliance on buses and cabs, and it also just makes exercise fun.”

Edwin Resto isn’t a kid, but he bikes with them. He was among the first in the door when BiciCocina opened last month, after helping to unpack the truckloads that delivered the bikes, parts and equipment from the Somerville shop that went out of business. Resto, 48, said he’s had more bikes than birthdays.

“It’s a very good bike – aluminum, made for off road, full suspension,” he said about the bike he bought at BiciCocina for $250, among the shop’s most expensive bikes. He said he rides it to work as a landscaper and contractor, and also leads city kids on day trips “to get them off the block and out of the neighborhood. They look forward to that.”

“They’re doing something great for the kids,” Resto said about BiciCocina. “We don’t have many bike stores anymore. They’ve all closed down. It’s like they’re disappearing.”

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