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A wheeled journey

  • Alan Allen founded Petaluma Community Bikes to help repair bikes for those in need. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

Alan Allen, a relative newcomer to Petaluma, is known as a volunteering force, doing everything from starting a bicycle giveaway program to organizing a citizen cleanup crew for recent vandalism.

"He's the type of individual who not only talks about some great things, but gets down and does it," said Petaluma City Councilman Mike Harris.

"Alan walks in with that bouncing right off his shoulders, &‘Let's get in and let's do it,'" said Don Morshead, a real estate agent who works with Allen on the Community Bikes Petaluma project.

Allen is 44 and unemployed, but said he's been putting his energy in recent years into community service. While he's involved in multiple efforts, his focus is the bicycle program, which uses the irreverent slogan, "We put butts on bikes."

"I'm on this kind of journey at this point in my life. It's phenomenal; I totally love it," he said.

He admitted that this part of his life is a departure from his earlier adult years, which included arrests and state prison for acts he said were fueled by a drug problem.

Allen grew up in Santa Rosa but moved to San Jose as a teen. "That's where I started getting into trouble."

Between 1996 and 2007, he was convicted of three counts of felony corporal spousal abuse and grand theft, according to Sonoma County court records.

"I'm not proud of it," he said. "I am working very hard to put my past where it belongs, and that's behind me."

Allen said he's been off drugs since April 2007. "When I got clean I really started noticing my lifestyle changing. My friends changed, my thought process changed.

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