Douglas Whitney says he just likes to make people happy.

If he sees someone with car trouble, he stops to help. If he witnesses something suspicious, he tells police. He particularly enjoys fixing up broken bicycles and selling them, giving them away or donating them to charity.

“Last year I gave away two bikes to two kids who lost all their belongings in a fire,” he said. “One was a pink, free-style girl’s bike and one was a boy’s stunt bike, blackish-orange in color. Their mother was wicked happy. She said, ‘How much do I owe you?,’ and I said you don’t owe me anything. It made her day.”

Douglas Whitney, 50, of Waterville, likes to help people. He especially likes to fix bicycles that are broken and either give them away or sell them from his front yard. Morning Sentinel photo by Amy Calder

I met Whitney, 50, on The Concourse in downtown Waterville on Wednesday where he was waiting for his roommate to get out of a doctor’s appointment at Inland Family Care.

He had his yellow, black and silver-colored mountain bike that he put together with parts from “scrap bikes.” His bike, which has two rearview mirrors on the left handle bar and three water bottle racks, was hitched to a large trailer carrying a plastic green trash can inside and a basket attached to the trailer that holds his tools and gloves.

“I pick up bottles, and when I see a bike that’s out there stranded, I take it home and tell Waterville PD about it, and if nobody claims it, I fix it up. I put it out in my yard on Sherwin Street for yard sales. If I don’t sell it, I give it to Goodwill. I’ve been doing it all my life and I’m 50.”

The gray-haired, 6-foot-2-inch tall, bespectacled Whitney said he likes riding his bike and walking with it a lot. Besides traveling all around Waterville, he goes over to Winslow and Benton, where he finds a lot of bottles and cans along rural roads and tosses them in his trash can.

“I’m staying out of trouble,” he said. “I don’t have a car. This is my transportation. I ride my bicycle all year round. There are a couple of old folks in Winslow that give me bottles. They see me out there and they see I’m cleaning up the environment. Somebody’s got to do it. I make a little bit of change here and there. I usually make about $15 a day, give or take the day. No more than $100 a week. I find a lot of 15-centers and that adds up pretty quick.”

Whitney leaves his house every day about 7 a.m. and returns around 5 p.m., he said.

“I go out and enjoy the nature and see the scenery, see what’s new, see what’s different, meet new people. If I see somebody stranded, I help. There was a woman in a snowbank during the snowstorm last week at Hannaford on Kennedy Memorial Drive. She backed out and pulled forward and went down into the snowbank. She was an elderly lady. She couldn’t push that car, so me and another guy helped push her out.”

Whitney was born in Lincoln. He was adopted and grew up in Newport where he attended school and then did odd jobs such as mowing and haying. He moved to Waterville about six years ago. He has never been married, but has a daughter in the area.

He isn’t too proud to say he is an expert bike repair man, has all the right tools and knows what he’s doing.

“I learned it on my own. I started when I was 5, just tinkering with tools and things like that. I fix ’em up or sell ’em or scrap ’em. I love doing that stuff. A good friend of mine bought five bikes off of me.”

The bikes he repairs typically require quick fixes, he said.

“I usually sell them for between 20 and 40 bucks. They’re in good shape. There might be a cable gone on a bike, or it needs a new chain or rims and tires replaced, just common stuff. It might need a seat. It’s a lot cheaper than a car. The reason I don’t drive is the way the economy is right now and the prices of gas, and owning a vehicle is too much money. And it’s dangerous out there, driving a vehicle.”

Whitney gets ready to take off on his bike, but stops, smiling, remembering one more thing:

“It makes a lot of people happy when I can actually fix a bike that doesn’t fall apart,” he said. “They usually call me ‘the bicycle man.’ ”

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


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