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By Annabelle Zhou,
Among the crowds of tents at a recent Farmer’s Market stands a mismatched collection of bikes. Some bikes tower over people, some have huge tires and some look like toys. A man with a distinctive white beard and twinkling eyes stands by proudly, grinning as he watches bystanders ride the bikes he had invented.
Peter Wagner is the brains and the brawn behind over 270 “WhymCycles.”
His passion for bikes began at an early age, when four-year-old Wagner learned to ride his older sister’s 26-inch bike without training wheels or supervision.
“I just tried to balance by standing on the pedals and not using the seat since it was almost as tall as I was,” he said.
In addition to an early interest in bikes, Wagner also found himself fascinated with building. In fifth grade, he bought parts with his own money to build a Stingray-style bike; a few years later, Wagner built a tandem bike with help from a magazine article.
Two hundred seventy-five bikes later, Wagner still finds inspiration from magazines. Ideas also come from books, dreams and materials he already has.
Previously, he took old bikes from Davis Waste Removal’s recycling program, but that practice is now banned.
“A tremendous resource in our town is now utterly wasted for no reason,” Wagner said.
Today he uses many donated materials and bikes to make his ideas come to life. Some of his designs include tricycles for up to three people, bikes that bounce for propulsion, bikes with no pedals and quadracycles that are amphibious for land and water use, and the entire Wagner family uses his WhymCycles for transportation around town.
“Peter’s creations are unique and fun, and it’s people like Peter that help make Davis the unique wonderful place in which we live,” said Beth Annon-Lovering of B&L Bike Shop.
People and families with special needs, injuries or permanent handicaps can find Wagner for vehicular solutions to get them rolling again. He also loans out bikes when he can. “I try to never say no,” Wagner said.
Wagner’s bikes can also be requested at numerous gatherings such as birthday parties, weddings and city or school events at little to no cost.
The Davis WhymCycle Society has ridden his bikes in the Picnic Day parade for 17 years.
To support his hobby, Wagner works as a substitute teacher as well.
“Each spring when we celebrate May is Bike Month, we try to have him sub on a Wednesday as an extra enticement for him to bring some of his crazy cycles for our kids to see, experiment with and build their enthusiasm about cycling!” secretary at North Davis Elementary Cathy Hackett said.
“The students ALWAYS look forward to Mr. Wagner and his WhymCycles!” NDE teacher Kristen Heeren said.
In 2012, Mayor Joe Krovoza proclaimed Nov. 13, Wagner’s birthday, as “Peter Wagner Day” in celebration of his 60th birthday and of fun, creativity and kindness in the years to come.
“My WhymCycles are “smile-cycles” […] riding or watching is all it takes to inspire or just bring a little joy to folks. That is a very good thing, yes?” Wagner said.