COEUR D'ALENE — Trash is carelessly left along Idaho highways all year long, but most drivers tend to forget about it during the winter months -- when snow temporarily covers it. Like the old adage says: “Out of sight, out of mind.”
But “out of mind” doesn’t apply to Richard White, a 63-year-old Coeur d’Alene resident who, for nearly three years now, has independently traveled city streets and state highways in north Idaho to collect trash others have left.
White said he retired early from his job with Strate Line Crane and Rigging (now known as Barnhart Crane and Rigging) due to medical issues and, months later, found himself tinkering on a neighbor’s bicycle. Given his health condition, he was surprised when his “test trip” down a driveway to get the daily mail worked out.
“He decided to get back on his larger bike and gained access to mobility he had been missing. He also found trash on his travels -- inspiring him to develop a cycling loop through the Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls areas -- that cover more than twenty miles,” according to Idaho Transportation Department spokesperson Megan Sausser.
“I can’t see or walk very well, or even drive, but I can pick up trash,” White said.
White makes the trip every morning on his bike -- wearing reflective gear and packing tools like plastic bags, a saw, and rolls of wire on his back. “His trips are so regular that often he does not even need to stop to pick up trash, but rather (he) slows down to catch what piled up in the last day,” Sausser said.
“He has talked to local business owners who let him throw the garbage he collects into their dumpsters and now, as an official participant of ITD’s Adopt-a-Highway program, the Department’s operations crews help him by collecting the bags from the roadside,” she added.
White’s unusually mobile setup has attracted a lot of attention.
“People are pulling over constantly to ask me what I’m doing,” he said. “Some even offer to help.”
(photo courtesy: Idaho Transportation Department)