By Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK-A bright white bicycle suitable for a young girl, accented by pops of bubble gum pink in the handlebars, pedals and seat, sits out on the front lawn of 34 Barney Road in Clifton Park.
The opal streamers gushing from the hand grips glisten as the wind pulls on the strands, and if they rise up enough, one will find a white envelope taped on the steering mechanism offering it up for sale.
It is waiting for its future owner as so many other bikes have for the past 18 years since Philip Miranda began revamping and fixing up bikes when he moved to this area, setting them out in his yard and giving them away to those in need for practically nothing.
All one has to do is place $10 inside the envelope, seal it, and slip it into the partially open window of a vehicle in the driveway. There is no catch — that’s it. The whole process functions entirely on the honor system.
Over the years, it’s not been uncommon to see dozens of these human-powered pieces of transportation and sources of enjoyment parked at the curb, ranging from high-performance vehicles such as the Legendary Lightning P38 Dynamic — a model that in the past was used to set a record ride across the United States — a mountain bike with dozens of gears and even a tiny starter tricycle for a young one just getting started.
Walking into his garage, you see bikes of all different colors and makes dangling from the ceiling. The silver chains sparkle when the sun shines through the window.
“My goal was to hit 100 bikes,” Miranda said. “But after seven years — when I hit 100 — I stopped counting.”
He used to get the majority of the bikes from the Salvation Army, but now prices have increased and he has resorted to other sources such as eBay and Craigslist. He gets them for as little money as possible so he’s not operating at a huge loss as he lets them go for little or no money.
Finding his way
Miranda grew up in Brooklyn, a city boy at heart. During his teenage years, he and his friends would walk over to the junk yard and repair bicycles that had been discarded.
After graduating from John Jay High School in 1976, he did one semester at Hunter College before going into the military for six years — three of active duty with the Navy and then three in the reserves with the Marine Corps — to gain more self-discipline and to help finance his education.
While stationed in Portsmouth, Virginia, he was involved in many branches of medicine — including pediatrics, the neonatal intensive care unit and the surgical critical care unit — but he decided that his calling was occupational therapy.
“I would cycle up to 125 miles in a day sometimes,” Miranda said. “After I would get out of work after a long swing and it was a good way of unwinding after dealing with critically ill patients.”
He obtained a bachelor’s degree from York University in 1985.
Miranda has now worked in health care for the past 39 years, 16 of those within the walls of St. Peter’s Hospital.
Miranda met his wife, Susana, on a blind date in Chinatown while he was in OT school, which was ironic since both of them grew up in Brooklyn. They have been married for the past 28 years.
They have five children: Daniella, 33, a special education teacher in Troy; Philip III, 26, who is attending Northeastern Baptist College to become a counselor or a pastor; Hannah, 25, who has Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic disease in which seven genes on chromosome 15 are deleted, causing a chronic feeling of hunger that can lead to excessive eating and obesity; Matthew, 21, who just graduated from Schenectady Community College with his music certificate and plays regularly at Grace Fellowship in Saratoga; and Rosa, 17, a junior at Shenendehowa High School.
In a sense, the bikes are a form of occupational therapy for the therapist himself.
THERAPY OF TINKERiNG
It’s in his workshop where Miranda finds relaxation, listening to the radio as he tinkers with foot pedals, fiddles with rims, fills air in tires and adjusts brakes.
“It’s my respite,” Miranda said.
“When he’s down there tinkering, it’s his therapy,” Susana said.
He is a man who likes to stay behind the scenes, never one to take credit for his kindness.
“Truthfully I’m giving out of abundance, not sacrificially,” Miranda said. “Hopefully it just demonstrates a little bit about the love of God; it’s just a small thing really. Our faith drives us to do what we do not because we want to get into heaven because of our works, but because of God’s grace, we try to show a little bit of grace to others.”
He continued: “What I’m hoping to do down the road is to one day start a small little Bible study bicycle workshop at the city mission. God takes people that society would say are kind of throw-aways and he can take them and fix them up, just like you can with a bike, and use it for a purpose.”