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Is a Bicycle a Vehicle?

It has two wheels, gets you from point A to point B, and accomplishes the goal of transporting people or goods, especially on land, right? So, yes, of course it's a vehicle! 

Yet, isn't that totally different from a four-wheeled gas operated automobile, which needs a key, insurance and a licensed driver to make it operate? After all, in a rural community where public transportation is limited, can't a bicycle be a cost-effective, allowable grant expense to get a participant of drug court to treatment which is three miles away from the transitional housing facility? Attending treatment was mandatory for the program, so why wouldn't they be allowed?  My goodness, the goal of the grant is to rehabilitate, right?

Several years ago, I was faced with this question from one of my elected officials. God love him! For those of us who are dedicated to the causes we write about, it makes perfect sense, doesn't it? However, immediately my Grant Professional red flags were raised and my answer (with a smile of course) to the Commissioner was “I can certainly look into that and get back to you.”

My Rule #1- if you don't know the answer, admit it and get it. Educating our clients is our job.

So, back at my office I combed through the guidelines of the grant. The OMB regulations specifically stated that vehicles were not allowable, which I knew, but it didn't define what a vehicle was. So, to Google I went. Definitions varied, but the answers I received were basically the same: If it provided transportation, it was a vehicle. I could feel the tires of the bike idea slowly losing air but I wasn't about to give up.

My Rule #2- If you still have doubt, do due diligence by calling the Program Manager of the grant for clarification.

Thankfully, I had developed a nice working relationship with the Program Manager. I knew that bicycles were not in our original budget but I also knew we could amend our budget by 10% without the need to get approval, as long as it was an allowable expense. She kindly gave a quick explanation, and my bicycle tires were now flat- a bicycle was a vehicle according to the federal government.

My Rule #3- If you can't use grant funds for a needed item, look to your community for help. Grant professionals look for resources everywhere.

We had a very strong law enforcement presence on the drug court team. Lo and behold, bicycles that were found throughout the City and never claimed went unused. Once the Chief found out what we needed them for, he repurposed them without a second thought. Bicycles were in motion, program goals were met, and the Commissioner was more than pleased.

I'm not naïve in thinking all gaps in funding can be so easily filled. I've also had more positive results on similar calls to Program Managers, so one never knows…our jobs as Grant Professionals are a lot like bike riding…so grab the handle bars and see where it takes you!