Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bike Hunt Stories Show the Power of Bicycles - Story 9: Silver

For the last in this series of excerpts from my recently published memoir, Bike Hunt, I’ve chosen the story of Silver’s giveaway. He was an all-chrome adult-size stunt BMX bike I’d found at a pawn shop in San Antonio, Texas. His giveaway was one of the most magical as I found myself in the right moment in the right place with a bike I’d given the perfect name.

After lunch on the last day of the conference, I rode Silver to the bus stop where I would catch the bus to the airport, looking for an appropriate recipient along those empty streets. The bus stop happened to be at the edge of a tiny, lot-sized park, unusual for that city because it actually invited locals to linger. A hotdog vendor had a long line waiting. Families were picnicking in the grass. Workers of all types, some in work pants, others in business attire, sat on the low rock wall that encircled the lawn. I soaked in the scene before starting my slow ride around the park to find Silver his new owner.
            Halfway through my second lap, I spotted a man, maybe mid-thirties, wearing clean worker’s pants and a new plaid shirt, who had just bought a hot dog. The way he stood holding it, not eating, just thinking, gave me my cue.
            “Excuse me,” I said.
            “Yes?” he asked, obviously suspicious of me riding this BMX bike, a backpack on my back.
            I stepped off in front of him in an effort to look a bit more normal. “I’ll be catching the bus to the airport soon to fly back to Arizona where I live. I’ve been riding this wonderful bike I bought at a pawn shop, but now I need to find someone who can take care of him. For free, only the commitment to take care of him.”
            I knew I’d gotten his attention when he began asking questions, mostly so I would repeat that I was soon leaving and could very well leave that bike with him. By then, his hand had drooped to his side in his amazement and I worried he might drop the hotdog. He must have caught my glance because he set it down on the wall. With his hands free, I was able to push Silver toward him until he grabbed the grips and straddled the frame. He thanked me, then told me how this bike would add to a turning point that had happened earlier that day. After months without work, nearly losing his house, he had found a job. Now he could ride this bike and save bus money. When I told him the bike’s name was Silver, he clenched his jaw.
            “My daughter’s name... is Silver,” he said, as he turned away so I’d never know if the tears flowed. I left him like that, not turning back as the bus pulled up and I jumped on.

Silver’s Bike Hunt story is one of many throughout the book. His is the last of the select series of nine I’ve shared on this blog. All have the label “Bike Hunt” so you can easily find them.

Better yet, you can buy your own copy of Bike Hunt to read all of the stories and more. Find it through any online book vendor worldwide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or order it through your local book store. We also have copies for sale at


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Bike Hunt Stories Show the Power of Bicycles - Story 8: Penelope

Here in the United States, we’re enjoying a relaxed week as we prepare for Thanksgiving. Food is central to Thanksgiving. But we also must remember the reason for this holiday embedded in its name – appreciation. That’s why, for the next in this series of excerpts from my recently published memoir, Bike Hunt, I’ve chosen the story of Penelope, a royal blue mid-1950s Sears single-speed I’d found at a Chicago bike shop. I’ve chosen her because I gave her to a hungry man who appreciated her more than food.

The morning after the workshop, which was not as interesting as I had hoped, I headed south to give away Penelope, just as I’d done with Sprinter—a Sunday morning with only one hour to find her a home. The streets were deserted save for a few cars. I turned onto side streets hoping to find a park or other place where people gathered. Nothing. Back onto the thoroughfare heading south, all I could see into the morning glare was miles of vacant sidewalk. My pedal strokes slowed. The farther I pedaled, the farther I’d have to walk, or pedal, back. A thick shadow from a hulking freeway flyover crossed the wasteland of blinding pavement. I was drawn to the shadow more for relief than hope.
They appeared as my eyesight adjusted, a line of about thirty forlorn people behind a van with its double rear doors wide open, stuffed with loaves of bread. From drought to flood. How was I going to approach thirty people, all of whom likely needed Penelope? I didn’t have time to worry about it. I followed my instincts as usual, pedaling slowly up to the line then coasting along its length, waiting for a sign.
“Good morning,” said a young, battered man with blond hair and beard. “Nice bike you have there.”
And we’ve found our winner. I slammed on the brakes. “Do you need a bike?” I asked him.
“I sure do!”
“Well,” I said as I stepped off and leaned Penelope toward him, “it would be my pleasure to give you this bike.”
He listened, stunned, as I gave him the spiel. As I handed him the key, the people on both sides of him in the line patted his shoulders and congratulated him, some calling him James. He thanked me with his eyes before I turned away, still enjoying their celebratory chatter as I rounded the corner to begin my long walk back to the hostel. I was on a different street from the one I had come south on, peeking into storefronts and windows I wouldn’t have noticed earlier through my frustration.
Crossing a side street, I saw a homeless shelter a few blocks down with a small group of people gathered outside talking and soaking up the sun. Good to know I would have had an option if I hadn’t found that breadline. Just as I stepped up onto the curb, just before the shelter would have vanished from my view, I caught a glimpse of movement, a flash of blue and that unmistakable blond beard. I stopped, one foot in the street, the other on the curb to watch a beaming James ride up to his buddies. He’d left the breadline to show off his new wheels. That guy had his priorities straight.

Penelope’s Bike Hunt story is one of many throughout the book. I’ve got my eye on several more to share on this blog. All will have the label “Bike Hunt” so you can easily find them.

Better yet, you can buy your own copy of Bike Hunt to read all of the stories and more. Find it through any online book vendor worldwide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or order it through your local book store. We also have copies for sale at


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Bike Hunt Stories Show the Power of Bicycles - Story 7: Sprinter

In three days, I will step into an official boxing ring to face down a stranger. The moment the bell rings and the referee says, “Box!” I will attack her with all the force and control I’ve learned from my coach and training over the past year. The photo is of me with my official USA Boxing passbook where this first bout will be recorded. Though it will be my first boxing bout, it’s certainly not my first standoff with a stranger. That’s why I’ve chosen the story of Sprinter, a hefty five-speed beach cruiser I found at a Chicago thrift store, as the next in this series of excerpts from my recently published memoir, Bike Hunt.
Sprinter’s story is a miniature of the book because I first relinquished him to a bully, just as I had relinquished myself to the job. Then, in a flash of honor for my former courageous self, I snatched him back to complete the Bike Hunt giveaway, only to face another bully on a desolate South Chicago street. The fighter, the boxer, who faced down that bully that cold, dreary morning is the part of me I will have to find on Friday if I expect to win my bout.

            Two months later on November 1st, 2004, I stepped out of a youth hostel in downtown Chicago with Sprinter by my side. It was the end of a quick, nearly disastrous trip that had centered around another fundraiser for Thunderhead. Like the San Francisco fundraiser, I had expected the Chicago bike advocates to step forward in droves to lend a hand, encouraged to help by the board chair. He was also a leader of the local Chicago bicycle advocacy organization, so he had the means to mobilize a small army and he had assured me he would. This is why I had organized the fundraiser in Chicago. Instead, a month before the event, after I’d reserved the room, secured auction items, and scheduled the speakers, not one of the local bike advocates had helped with ticket sales, promotions, or spreading the word. In the end it was all I could do to get a few dozen people to attend the expensive affair, even resorting to begging my in-laws to help fill the room.
            At the event, after the presentation of a big check from an industry sponsor who would have given it anyway and having introduced the next speaker, I nervously worked the sparse room wishing I had rented a smaller one so it would look more crowded, greeting each precious attendee like royalty. Thunderhead ended up losing money, but thankfully not much.
            When I’d arrived in Chicago, I’d simply gone to the board chair’s house and taken Sprinter. I’d told him I was going to do this via email, in statement form, not a question. His wife seemed relieved to get rid of the hefty bike. I was relieved to have him back under my care.
            That last morning, I stepped out into the chilly November air, a light drizzle falling. It was just past seven o’clock, a Monday morning. Even though it was a weekday, I knew my prospects would be slim in such miserable weather. I swung my leg over, took a few pedal strokes, and let Sprinter roll off the curb into the nearly empty street. I headed south because that’s where I’d seen the most people who seemed to be struggling, some homeless with bedrolls, others worn out from life’s relentless attacks.
            I saw him after several long blocks, his back to me, facing a fence to get a pocket of dry air to light his cigarette. He wasn’t quite frail, not quite old, but definitely sad. I veered across the four lanes of the wide street and bounced up onto the sidewalk, easing Sprinter to a stop not far from him. I gave my spiel as soon as he turned, unlit cigarette back in his hand as he took in my words.
            “Heck yeah, I need a bike!”
            I’d found Sprinter’s new home. It took me over a year, but I did it. Maybe this is what I needed, what that green-eyed man in Victoria had prayed for me to get.
            “Okay,” I said, as I rolled Sprinter close enough so he could grab the handlebar, “he’s your bike now.”
            But he didn’t reach out. Instead he recoiled and stepped back to cower next to the fence, his eyes terrified, looking past me. I turned to find a muscular youth towering over me.
            “You gonna give him that bike?” the punk spat.
            “I already did,” I said.
            “Give it to me,” the punk said.
            “It’s okay, it’s okay,” the man stammered. “I really don’t need a bike. He can have it.” He turned and began walking away.
            “Wait,” I said, maybe a bit too loud, “come back here. This is your bike. I don’t know who the fuck this guy is, but he sure as hell isn’t getting this bike!” This was Sprinter, damn it, and I wasn’t going to let any more bullies take him from me.
            I turned to glare at the punk. Fire must have been shooting out of my eyes because he stepped back. I turned to find the timid man shuffling back toward me through the misty rain.
            “You sure it’s mine?” he said, half asking, half convincing himself.
            “Damn straight this bike is yours! And don’t ever let anyone take him away from you. Promise me that.”
            “I promise,” he said, his grin returning as he finally took hold of the handlebar, swung his leg over, grabbed the key from my outstretched hand, and rode away, back straight and proud. When I turned around, the bully had vanished.

Sprinter’s Bike Hunt story is one of many throughout the book. I’ve got my eye on several more to share on this blog. All will have the label “Bike Hunt” so you can easily find them.

Better yet, you can buy your own copy of Bike Hunt to read all of the stories and more. Find it through any online book vendor worldwide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or order it through your local book store. We also have copies for sale at


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Bike Hunt Stories Show the Power of Bicycles - Story 6: Jane

For the next in this series of excerpts from my recently published memoir, Bike Hunt, I’ve chosen the story of Jane’s giveaway. She was an immaculate, bright red mountain bike from the mid-1980s with all her original Suntour parts still shiny. I’d found her like a buried treasured at the bottom of a pile of department store bikes at the back of a thrift store in Seattle. Jane and I traveled by ferry to Victoria, British Columbia for two bicycle gatherings, and that’s where I gave her away to an enchanting green-eyed man.

On my last morning after the conference in Victoria that followed the retreat, I walked out onto the sidewalk in front of the conference venue with Jane at my side. Jane deserved to find a home like her original owner must have given her, someone who would care for her and appreciate how special she was. I started down the wide, landscaped sidewalk, past caringly pruned young trees and flower boxes, benches and public art. I’d never seen such an adorned city, designed first for flowers and trees, a fitting place for Jane.
The people I passed all seemed content and busy with their tasks. I’d only walked a few blocks when I spotted him, a somewhat overweight middle-aged man dressed in colorful rags, settled on a bench, his dreadlocks bundled under a billowing knitted cap of yellow, red, and green. I stopped to figure out what he was doing. He was counting change in his palm. With careful steps I approached, trying not to startle him in his vulnerable task. I stopped again about ten feet away and waited, watching his dark finger as it moved each coin to the edge of his palm. The finger froze on a silver coin and he looked up, his brilliant green eyes electrifying me.
“Sorry,” I said, “I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”
“It’s okay,” he said. “I’m afraid I don’t have enough anyway. How can I help you?”
“I need to find someone who needs a bike, who can take care of this bike, who...” my emotion got the better of me.
“Can you start again? I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at,” he said in a soothing voice.
“Would you like this bike?” I blurted.
“I would love that bike,” he said with conviction.
“She’s all yours,” I said, then realized this man had no idea of the background. I was so concerned about finding Jane a great home, I had completely blown my giveaway spiel. I quickly filled in the missing parts about finding her at the Goodwill in Seattle and riding her during my week of meetings, that I had to find her a new home because I was leaving for my home in Arizona in a few hours. As I spoke, his face gradually shifted from his serious change-counting expression to jubilation. I rolled Jane close enough so he could reach her handlebar then let her go when he reached out. “She’s a beauty,” I said, “All original, a classic mountain bike from the mid ‘80s.”
“I can see she’s a beauty,” he said as he studied her.
“I’m so glad you can give her a good home. And here’s the key to her lock.”
“It’s my pleasure to give her a home,” he said, carefully taking the key. “In fact, you have given me exactly what I needed most. When you approached, I was counting my money to see if I had enough for one bus ride. Now, with this bike, I will never have to pay for a bus trip again.”
I could only smile in response because I couldn’t find any words.
“Now, there’s just one more thing I want,” he said, fixing his eyes on mine. “I want you to get exactly what you need too. I will pray for this, that you get exactly what you need.”
As I stood there, captivated by his green, determined eyes, I wondered what that might be. All my reference points had been replaced with what I believed Thunderhead needed. I let his words be the last between us, nodded with appreciation, and left him and Jane together on that majestic street.

Jane’s Bike Hunt story is one of many throughout the book. I’ve got my eye on several more to share on this blog. All will have the label “Bike Hunt” so you can easily find them.

Better yet, you can buy your own copy of Bike Hunt to read all of the stories and more. Find it through any online book vendor worldwide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or order it through your local book store. We also have copies for sale at


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bike Hunt Stories Show the Power of Bicycles - Story 5: Rebel

Today is Halloween, which sets my mind on an eerie bike hunt giveaway in Denver back in 2001. It was my fourth attempt at a Bike Hunt and my first true giveaway. The scene that unfolded that cold early morning still reminds me of ghosts and that gut-wrench possibility of goblins. That’s why I’ve chosen the story of Rebel, a battered blue mountain bike with dodgy brakes, for the next in this series of excerpts from my recently published memoir, Bike Hunt.

            The frigid pre-dawn air smacked me as I stepped through the sliding glass hotel entry rolling Rebel at my side. Had I not had this urgent errand, I would have turned right around and headed back to my cozy room to wait out the hour before the airport shuttle would arrive. One hour to scan the unfamiliar streets of downtown Denver for the proper recipient of Rebel—a worn, but sturdy mountain bike I’d bought at a pawn shop two days before. October 2001, an early winter. This was the wrap up of my fourth Bike Hunt, my first deliberate giveaway. Pony, in Philadelphia, had inspired the hunt. Fifi, in D.C., had broadened my expectations. And Purple Flash, in Wenatchee, had sweetened it all with her giveaway. I had to get this one right.
            I’d been riding Rebel to the various meetings scheduled around a transportation summit for western officials and advocates. He was a good bike, brakes a bit sketchy, but he rolled smooth, shifted well, and actually came to a stop if I squeezed both levers hard. His blue paint was scratched through in many spots though I could see he was once a looker. The pawn shop owner had lent me the few tools I needed to tighten his hubs, adjust his stem, and rethread the left pedal that had nearly fallen off. I named him Rebel because he had obviously faced great odds, but he had a certain vigor to him as soon as I pedaled off, as if he’d hated being cooped up in that pawn shop.
            I donned my helmet (a bad habit I had back then) and started pedaling, fighting the urge to pedal fast against the cold. Granules of snow pelted my face and sugarcoated the few people out, walking fast, pre-rush hour. Even though this was my first deliberate Bike Hunt giveaway, I knew Rebel’s new owner could be anyone I passed. I needed to take it slow, study each face, find the one with a bit of sadness, something missing in their life.
            I turned onto the 16th Street Mall where I’d seen homeless people the night before laying out their blankets in doorways. The 16th Street Mall was formerly a traffic-filled city street, but it no longer admitted cars, only pedestrians, cyclists, and a free tram that moseyed down the center. This allowed me to zig and zag from doorway to doorway across the street and back. But I kept striking out. All I could see were mounds of blankets, cardboard, and newspaper with a bit of sugarcoating for effect. Come to think of it, if I’d slept in a doorway the night before, I sure as heck wouldn’t be throwing back my blankets anytime soon either, at least not until the sun was well up. And I wasn’t about to go up and nudge any of the mounds. Picture that: Nudge, “Hiya, do you want a bicycle?” Let’s just say that wasn’t an option.
            I checked my watch—only half an hour before I had to be back at the hotel in time to grab my things and bolt to the shuttle. The farther I went, the longer it would take to walk back. I was nearing the end of the pedestrian mall area with only the endless expanse of the unfamiliar city stretching beyond. I shook off the thought of failure.
            Only three doorways with mounds remained before I’d have to venture out into the untamed streets. As my heart sank with the prospect of traveling too far to walk back in time for my shuttle, I glanced to my right down a side street at an eerie scene. In the beam of a streetlamp, a billow of ghostly steam whirled up against the descending snow. At first, all I saw was the steam, then a dark shape and then all seven of them, palms pushing down as they rocked back and forth.
            Standing on my pedals, squeezing hard on the brake levers, I nearly fell over as Rebel eased to a stop. It took all my will not to ride full speed right at them and tell them how excited I was to find them. I carefully eased my leg over the seat, composed myself, and walked as nonchalantly as I could toward the group. They were about half a block away, time enough for me to practice my line, and then I realized I had a big problem—what if they all wanted Rebel? I stopped. No, it was my last chance. Time was evaporating with each hesitation.
            With careful steps forward I studied the group. They were Native American, likely a family, four generations. There was a boy, maybe four or five, too small for Rebel. There was an old woman, grey streaks in her long black hair held back with a turquoise-inlaid clasp, and an old man with a black cowboy hat and deep grooves in his face. They wouldn’t want him, would they? A middle-aged man draped with a colorful blanket hardly looked up, unlikely to get involved. That left the three who looked to be in their teens and twenties, one girl, the others guys. Still a problem. I kept moving, much less excited than a few minutes before. I decided to let it play out and follow my instincts, bail if I needed to.
            I walked right toward them along the sidewalk, carefully watching each face through the dancing billows of steam, especially the three. The old man stepped back, shielding the old woman. The kid squeezed between their legs. The three stood their ground. I kept walking. About ten feet from them I stopped.
“Hi,” I said, and that’s all.
I waited. But I didn’t have to wait long. One of the young men—maybe seventeen, Broncos team jacket, shoulder-length black hair, inquisitive expression—stepped forward.
“Hi,” he said. “How’s it going?”
Problem solved. He would get Rebel. I delivered my story directly to him, not the others. I explained that I’d bought the bike to ride during a conference, but I needed to find him a home before I left that morning. He listened carefully with his eyes on Rebel.
“How much you want for it?”
“Nothing, except your promise to take good care of him. I named him Rebel.” I wasn’t sure if I should have said this, but when he looked up at me and smiled, I was glad I had.
“I’ll take good care of him, I promise,” he said as he reached out to touch the handlebar grip. I let go, so he had to grab it before the bike fell.
“He’s all yours.”
He swung his new bike to his side, then crouched down to look at the wheels and gears.
“How many gears?”
“Eighteen. The brakes are a bit worn, but if you use both at the same time it’s no problem. He rides real smooth.”
With that he stood and turned to the group, showing them his new ride. Though his back was to me, his elation was reflected in their faces. Then I remembered the lock, a new detail I’d added for this Bike Hunt. I’d brought an inexpensive coil lock to give away with the bike so the recipient wouldn’t have to worry about it getting stolen. The lock was dangling from the back of the seat, the key still in my pocket. I fished for it and brought it out.
“I almost forgot, you’ll need the key to the lock.”
He turned around, looked down at my outstretched hand and back up into my face as if I’d offered him another million dollars. He took the key, speechless.
That was it. Success. I was about to turn to leave when the old man, hidden behind the steam, abruptly spoke.
“Wait,” he said as he stepped through the group to face me, his hand strangely patting his hat. The young man with Rebel was still smiling so I knew this wasn’t a threat. “Can you give my grandson a hat too?”
It took me a minute to figure out what he was saying. A helmet, he wanted me to give his grandson a helmet.
“No,” I said, now also patting my helmeted head. “I only have this one. I’m sorry.”
“That’s okay,” he said and paused to admire the bike with his grandson. “Thanks for the bike. He needs it. He’s looking for a job this week and this will help him. We need the money as you can see.” Then he slipped back behind the steam.
I wished the young man good luck on his job hunt and in reply he held out his right fist. I’d never seen this before, but instinctively I made a fist and touched it to his before turning and walking away.

Rebel’s Bike Hunt story is one of many throughout the book. I’ve got my eye on several more to share on this blog. All will have the label “Bike Hunt” so you can easily find them.

Better yet, you can buy your own copy of Bike Hunt to read all of the stories and more. Find it through any online book vendor worldwide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or order it through your local book store. We also have copies for sale at


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Bike Hunt Stories Show the Power of Bicycles - Story 4: George

This week, I’ve been working with my Bosnian colleagues to develop a campaign planning workshop series in Bosnia and Herzegovina for the fall of 2018. So, for the next in this series of excerpts from my recently published memoir, Bike Hunt, I’d like to share a story from the Balkans.

George was a mistreated metallic-blue mountain bike I bought in Pula, Croatia before the annual general meeting of the European Cyclists’ Federation, which took place on the island of Veliki Brijun, a short ferry ride from Pula. George found his new home inland, in the city of Zagreb, thanks to my bike advocate friend Darinka. This was the first time I’d seen the Bike Hunt through someone else’s eyes. Enjoy.

On my last afternoon, Darinka joined me for George’s giveaway. As we pedaled downtown and into an open square of mingling crowds surrounded by ornate buildings, I warned Darinka that sometimes the giveaway can be quite difficult, though I had no idea what we were in for. After nearly two hours of Darinka giving the spiel in Croatian to countless people as I played her sidekick showcasing George, we both slumped onto the edge of a fountain to regroup. Everyone we had approached was either too busy or already had a bicycle. We had just decided to make another full circle of the square when we both spotted the same man.
“That’s him,” I said.
“That is definitely him,” she said as we walked toward him as casually as possible.
His sadness showed in his slow stride and slouched shoulders. I guessed he was in his forties, a worker with blue carpenter’s pants and short, dusty blond hair. He had sauntered out of the crowd on the edge of the square and was slowly making his way to the other side. Darinka caught his attention and began the spiel. He listened intently, looking slightly down at her. When she was done, he glanced over at me and George, then back to Darinka to ask careful questions. She started getting excited, explaining and pointing at George then pointing at him, showing him the bike would be all his. That’s when his face lit up and I swear he grew several inches as he turned to gaze at George. I pushed George into his hands and he pulled him close. Darinka went on talking as I fumbled for the key. I had to nudge him to pull his attention away from the bike and hand him the key, pointing to the lock. He took it as his face spread into joy and a tear formed in his eye. He sucked in some air and spoke to Darinka before throwing his leg over the bike and pedaling away. We both watched him disappear into the crowd and then Darinka sprang into a wild twirling dance around me.
“That was incredible!” she shouted, jumping and dancing in a circle so I had to keep turning to see her. “He told me his bike had been stolen weeks ago and he’d been walking for hours each day to and from work because he had no money for another bike. We just changed that man’s life!”
Watching the effect of the Bike Hunt giveaway through Darinka’s reaction, laughing and exclaiming along with her in the middle of that city of survivors, I could step back and see it, see why the Bike Hunt had become so essential to me.

George’s Bike Hunt story is one of many throughout the book. I’ve got my eye on several more to share on this blog. All will have the label “Bike Hunt” so you can easily find them.

Better yet, you can buy your own copy of Bike Hunt to read all of the stories and more. Find it through any online book vendor worldwide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or order it through your local book store. We also have copies for sale at


Monday, October 16, 2017

Bike Hunt Stories Show the Power of Bicycles - Story 3: The Iron Maiden

For the next in this series of excerpts from my recently published memoir, Bike Hunt, I’ve chosen a bike hunt story that reminds me how grateful I am to be healthy and able-bodied. This last weekend was full of training, competing, and celebrating with my boxing and tennis friends. Because of stories like this bike hunt, I know that just one injury would sever these joys from my life. That thought is a gut punch to me.

So today I give you the story of The Iron Maiden who helped one man move freely again. She was a heavy steel, industrial blue, women’s-frame ten-speed bike from a thrift store in Denver, which I took to Boulder for a visit with a friend.

The next morning, I headed straight to the shelter. As I pedaled up, there were a dozen guys hanging out in a tight group. I stopped in the street next to them, got their attention, gave my spiel and settled back on The Iron Maiden’s seat to take in the reaction. Some laughed, others elbowed, teasing one guy that he needed a bike to lose some weight, another that he could use it to leave town. Watching the faces I was starting to wonder if I’d come up dry, when I heard a voice from below.
“I need a bike,” the voice said, this time sincere.
I looked down to find lying on the sidewalk a Grizzly Adams type, complete with beard and tussled blond hair, crutches at his side. I tuned out the jeers and moved closer to hear him.
“My bike got stolen about three months ago,” he continued, “and ever since, this sciatic nerve has plagued me. When I was riding that bike, I was fine, could even work. Now look at me. I’m a damned cripple.”
The jeers had stopped. They were listening too.
“Wow,” I said, “You definitely need a bike. But how do you know you can actually ride her?”
Rather than answer, he struggled to sit up and then get to his feet, wincing. One of the other guys helped him get his crutches. I got off The Iron Maiden and lined her up near the curb. Using his crutches, he lowered himself into the street, then handed them back to the guy who had helped. He took hold of her handlebar, slid his leg carefully through her low-curved frame and eased himself onto the saddle. The group hushed.
“Oh yeah,” he said, like a mountain man astride a wild horse, “I can ride her, no problem.”
“I named her The Iron Maiden,” I said. “You feel her weight?”
“That’s cool,” he said with a daring grin as he gazed at all sides of his new ride. “That’s the perfect name for her.”
At this, the group erupted into hoots and applause.

The Iron Maiden’s Bike Hunt story is one of many throughout the book. I’ve got my eye on several more to share on this blog. All will have the label “Bike Hunt” so you can easily find them.

Better yet, you can buy your own copy of Bike Hunt to read all of the stories and more. Find it through any online book vendor worldwide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or order it through your local book store. We also have copies for sale at


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Bike Hunt Stories Show the Power of Bicycles - Story 2: Jim Lucas

My recently published memoir, Bike Hunt, is based on my disturbing time as executive director of the Thunderhead Alliance back in the early 2000s. Interlaced throughout the book are my stories of hunting for then giving away used bicycles when I travel. Those bike hunts kept me from losing myself as I fell into that abusive situation, so I recall them with fine detail. Readers seem to enjoy them. Plus, each bike hunt story shows the significant impact a bicycle can have on someone who is struggling. So, I have decided to offer a series of my favorite bike hunts in this blog. Today is Story 2: Jim Lucas.

I’ve chosen the Jim Lucas bike hunt story because it reminds me of the bike hunt I just enjoyed. I spent the last four days in Oakland, California for a community land trust conference. Upon arrival in Oakland, I asked a few people at the subway exit where I could find a used bike. A three-block walk later, I found myself settled into the backroom repair area of a sweet bike shop where the owner takes pride in helping his neighbors. Andre had agreed to sell me a traumatized black Schwinn commuter bike whose bottom bracket had been ridden into dust. After more than an hour of wrenching and replacing parts, black grease up to my elbows, I rolled my new ride, dubbed Otis, out the door to pedal through the graffitied neighbor to my Airbnb room.

But the surgical beginning of Otis’ bike hunt was not what reminded me of Jim Lucas. Instead, like Jim Lucas’ giveaway, it was my chance to connect with a heartbroken woman in downtown Oakland and give her a bike.

Yesterday morning, I’d only managed to spare fifteen minutes to find Otis a home before the conference session began. I pedaled him slowly away from the conference venue forcing myself not to rush, but to look at faces instead. After a few blocks, I glimpsed the hunched form of a thirty-something black woman sitting on a fire hydrant. I had to interrupt her deep conversation with herself. I think I was the first person to talk with her for a while, because a tear formed in one of her eyes as she folded me into her conversation and I jumped along with her scattered threads.

I learned about her mother’s struggles and that she is now in a home or institution that is difficult to reach. She told me about a brutal beating that seemed to be her explanation for her ramblings—messed up her mind.

When she realized I was giving her the bike, the tears flowed. She’d had once had a red Schwinn, but it was stolen. I showed her the lock and key dangling from the seat so she wouldn’t have to worry about that. We shook hands and I dashed back to the conference, only slightly late for my session, though it took me some time to refocus.

So today my excerpt from Bike Hunt is the bike hunt giveaway story in Chicago of Jim Lucas, a beautifully preserved 1950s black Raleigh three-speed:

I pedaled downtown the next day to give Jim Lucas away. As I turned onto Michigan Avenue, its wide expanse between skyscrapers and landscaped median forced me to choose a side. I chose the southbound side and slowed to a crawl to study the passing faces. Most of the pedestrians were in suits or fancy dresses rushing to important places. Behind this flow of people I spotted a stationary man. He was sitting on a rolled-up blanket, his smudged, bearded face watching the people pass as if he was at a tennis match. No one stopped to drop coins into his hat. His sign read simply, “Please.” I liked that. No specifics, just a polite please. I used to add that word to the end of my hitchhiking signs. Still, I wanted to make sure he’d take care of Jim Lucas before committing. After rolling up to him, I could tell he didn’t see me because he was so focused on the rush in front of him. I’d come from the side and was no longer moving.
“Hi,” I said.
“Huh?” he said. “Geez, where did you come from?”
“Sorry to surprise you,” I said, moving my eyes back to the swirling crowd for a moment to let him get used to me. “So,” I began again, “what’s your story?”
He sat up a bit, obviously pleased that I’d asked and scooched a bit closer to me as I leaned down across the handlebar to listen. He started by asking my name. His was A. J. Then he told me of thieves and beatings, the fear he felt each night when he tried to sleep, the vulnerability he was growing so tired of. And then, as if to balance this fear, he told me how much he still loved his girlfriend who had left him nearly a year before to fend for himself on the street. When I asked him if a bike would help, he frowned, saying he couldn’t buy a bike. But when I explained further, his blue eyes brightened.
“Would you really give me that beautiful bike?” he asked.
“I would be honored to give you this beautiful bike,” I said.
He stood up slowly, his eyes on Jim Lucas. I pushed him into A. J.’s hands and he swung his leg over to straddle the frame. After one quick glance at me he jumped onto the saddle and started riding in a circle, disrupting the flow of people who had to step sideways and then collide with others. A. J. no longer cared about them as he laughed and chattered about all the places he could go now, riding many more circles on the sidewalk. He coasted to a stop in front of me to give me a hug. As I walked away, he chanted my name.

Jim Lucas’ Bike Hunt story is one of many throughout the book. I’ve got my eye on several more to share on this blog. All will have the label “Bike Hunt” so you can easily find them.

Better yet, you can buy your own copy of Bike Hunt to read all of the stories and more. Find it through any online book vendor worldwide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or order it through your local book store. We also have copies for sale at


Monday, October 2, 2017

Bike Hunt Stories Show the Power of Bicycles - Story 1: Peaches

Since publishing my memoir, Bike Hunt, at the end of August, I’ve had many deep discussions with readers via email, phone, and Facebook as well as in person. The Interbike trade show a few weeks ago drew readers to the One Street booth to share their thoughts inspired by the book.

The top theme of these discussions has been how and why humans tend to act so badly in groups. This plays out in many nonprofits, and certainly played out at the Thunderhead Alliance while I was the director there in the early 2000s – the timeframe of the book.

Running a close second for readers’ are my detailed accounts of what I call Bike Hunts – my tales of searching for and then giving away used bikes whenever I travel. During my disturbing time at Thunderhead, my Bike Hunts were my only connections back to the world I’d known before taking the job. They were so important to me, I recall fine details of these precious moments simply helping strangers with bicycles.

Each Bike Hunt story shows the significant impact a bicycle can have on someone who is struggling, though it’s simply me giving a bicycle to another person. No anti-poverty program. No ribbon cutting. No media. Just two human beings and a bicycle.

So I thought I’d share some of my favorite Bike Hunt stories from Bike Hunt in this blog, starting with a bright pink girl’s BMX bike I found at a Goodwill during a conference in Miami and named Peaches:

            On the last evening there, after Gayle and I packed up the booth and dealt with the shipping service, I wheeled Peaches out the front door to find her new home. It was already dark and I worried that anyone I approached might be even more suspicious of me than usual when trying to give away a bike. I pedaled Peaches carefully along the busy, multi-lane road, the typical road type I’d seen all over the area. No wonder there were so few people riding bicycles there. Cars swept past my left shoulder as I focused on keeping the handlebar straight, scanning the sidewalks for someone who would adore Peaches. The few people out were rushing somewhere else, no time for a bright pink bike. I rode on into the night, heading west away from the city and into hardened neighborhoods where iron bars were favored over business signs.
            Ahead, three small figures were walking much slower than the other people I’d seen. They were speaking softly as they walked, looking at each other rather than the sidewalk. One was likely the mother, barely five feet tall. The boy was only a bit smaller than she was, perhaps ten years old. The smallest was a young girl and she had on a pink coat. I swear Peaches sped up as soon as I spotted them, but I pedaled back to slow down. I didn’t want to startle them so I eased onto the sidewalk at the next driveway and got off to walk toward them.
            “Excuse me,” I said, and watched with dismay as they all jumped back in fright. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”
            The boy whispered in Spanish to his sister and mother and they both nodded at him. “It’s okay,” he said, and stepped in front to lead them past me.
            “Just a minute,” I said, “can I ask you something?”
            “Yes, of course,” he said as he stopped to listen.
            I gave him my giveaway spiel and suggested maybe his sister would like the bike. When I had finished, he nodded to show he understood, then turned to the other two to translate, taking his role as translator and negotiator very seriously. As he retold my story in Spanish, both of their faces brightened, and when he came to the end, the girl jumped up and down, still staring up into her brother’s face as if to make sure he’d really said it. The mother began speaking very rapidly as the boy encouraged her with “si, si.”
            He turned back to me. “My sister would be very happy to accept the bicycle,” he said in a business-like tone, “and my mother would like to thank you very much. You see, yesterday was my sister’s eighth birthday and she had hoped for a bicycle.”
            The Bike Hunt had succeeded yet again.

Peaches’ Bike Hunt story is one of many throughout the book. I’ve got my eye on several more to share on this blog. All will have the label “Bike Hunt” so you can easily find them.

Better yet, you can buy your own copy of Bike Hunt to read all of the stories and more. Find it through any online book vendor worldwide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or order it through your local book store. We also have copies for sale at


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Bristol Bike Project Transforming Lives

One Street's Social Bike Business program and our accompanying book Defying Poverty with Bicycles encourage the creation of bicycle community centers where everyone feels welcome. Such places are rare because attempts often derail toward idealistic elitism (read more in this post) or toward profits without regard to who is served (read posts labeled bike industry).

So when we find a great model, we've got to share it. The Bristol Bike Project even emphasizes keeping used bikes in their community in their tagline - something we encourage instead of shipping them overseas. Learn all about them on their website.

This article introduces the Bristol Bike Project including great photos of their work in action:

From Huck Magazine, Pivot Points: Stories of Change
Posted Wednesday 21st June 2017, Text By James Arthur Allen

Bath-based photographer James Arthur Allen learns a valuable lesson in the power of community from a project.

Stokes Croft in the city of Bristol has long been a hotbed of creativity and activism: a microcosm that retains its independent roots even in a time of increased gentrification and development. Nestled under the Banksy-adorned Hamilton House, an otherwise standard five-storey office block, lies the Bristol Bike Project (BBP), a workshop-cum-bike shop that sells second-hand steeds and offers maintenance courses.

But BBP is no ordinary bike pitstop: people who walk through these doors never really leave.

Founded in 2008 by James Lucas and Colin Fan, the project has grown into a full-time enterprise that supports and equips vulnerable groups in the local community through the humble bicycle. At the core of the project is their Earn-a-Bike programme, set up so that people from all walks of life – from asylum seekers and at-risk youth, to anyone living on the margins – can learn basic mechanics and earn a bicycle in the process: there are no hand-outs here.

BBP operates as a not-for-profit workers’ co-operative with a flat structure of pay. “All profits are channelled back into our volunteer-run programme,” says James, who also founded Boneshaker magazine as an outlet for his two-wheeled passion. “The programme is inspired by the Chinese proverb: ‘Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.’”

Co-founder James Lucas has long believed in the transformative power of bikes.

This philosophy leads to a hustle and bustle that doesn’t limit itself to staff. On a sunny day in early June, Julien and Big Al, both experienced bike mechanics, are running the Fix-a-Bike session, overseeing volunteers at six busy work stations. Customers, volunteers and users of the project rub shoulders as they work alongside one another, talking bikes and life, exchanging skills and advice, and generally having a laugh.

Read more and see all the great photos in the original article here.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Vision Zero Blind to Racism

I’ve been uneasy about Vision Zero initiatives since the first policy was adopted in Sweden in the late ‘90s. A government policy that mandates zero traffic deaths creates a system that supports corrupt and brutal tactics in order to reach such a drastic goal.

My initial concern was that Vision Zero is the perfect backdrop for mandating bicycle helmets, even though bike helmets offer little if any protection in crashes. Such laws do immeasurable damage to bicycle advocacy by creating a barrier to bicycling, blaming the victims in crashes, and making bicycling seem far more dangerous than it is.

But until a few days ago, I had not associated my unease over Vision Zero with racism and enabling police brutality. Thanks to this article (pasted below) from Neighborhood Bike Works in Philadelphia, my concern over Vision Zero has more than doubled.

I clicked on the Vision Zero link in the article, then the action plan for Philadelphia to find that the term “enforcement” is used 34 times in as many pages. Not a good sign. In communities where people care about each other, enforcement must be the lowest priority.

Read through the article and if you have further ideas and other concerns about Vision Zero, please offer them in the comments section. And if you live in Philadelphia, be sure to take the survey linked on that Vision Zero page.


No Racism on Safe Streets
Racism and its sinister effects are everywhere – the streets included. At Neighborhood Bike Works (NBW) we’ve recognized that the roadways (and elsewhere) must be for everyone and that the long history of creating streets safe only for well-off, white people shouldn’t follow us forward anymore. In the effort for safe streets and the newer attempt to eliminate all traffic deaths (an effort called Vision Zero), we must scrutinize the offered solutions to ensure that they protect the most vulnerable road users. This is a challenge with Vision Zero, however, since erratic enforcement of traffic and other laws further endanger vulnerable road users, especially people of color.

As Paul Hetznecker, a Philadelphia civil rights attorney pointed out to PlanPhilly, “traffic stops have been used as pretexts for unconstitutional search and seizure.” This means that even as we work to make streets safer and to eliminate traffic deaths, we must remember that speed cameras, police presence, and other increased enforcement measures can result in targeting and surveilling people of color on city streets.  At NBW, we’ve seen that police presence intimidate and harm NBW youth, program alumni, and other members of our close community.  At times NBW youth graduates have been accused of stealing bikes they’ve earned at NBW. Officers have assumed that a black youth in Philadelphia couldn’t rightfully own a high quality bike. This has happened more than once, at more than one NBW site. Again and again, we’ve heard those in the NBW community share violent, terrifying stories of police brutality on city streets. One effect of this inequitable, increased enforcement is that people, including those in our NBW community, sometimes choose to stay at home, instead of joining in programs or activities. Sometimes the trip just isn’t worth the outsized risk of being pulled over or harassed on the street, seemingly at random.

We’re encouraged that in Philadelphia, bike advocates have acknowledged the risks inherent in stepped up traffic enforcement in communities of color. Furthermore, red light camera bills have civil liberties protections written into them to protect against government overreach.

The risks of escalated police interaction have led many local advocates to favor infrastructure improvements over enforcement. These improvements could include broadly and strategically distributed amenities such as protected bike lanes, traffic calming measures, recreation paths, crosswalk countdown timers, and street lights. Each time there is a proposed infrastructure project, we ask for people to raise the critical questions to ensure that we course correct decades of uneven, unfair infrastructure projects. You can ask questions like: Who benefits from this project? Who does it leave out? How could it be improved to make its benefits more widespread?  How can this project center the wellness and prosperity of communities of color and other communities that have seen disinvestment?

We don’t have “the solution”, but we know it involves a likely messy merger of the Vision Zero effort with people and groups vigilant against racial profiling, inequitable distribution of safe streets infrastructure, and police brutality. The solution to unsafe streets will involve bike advocates and also those adept at fighting gentrification, at curbing the reach of street cameras to surveil communities of color, and critically important, it will involve community input from the start.

In Philadelphia, we have the opportunity to give comments on the Vision Zero Action Plan. The comment period is open for community members to weigh in on how to make the streets safer. Take a few minutes to read the plan and take the survey. How does this plan make streets safer for people of color? Could it put people of color at greater risk for police interactions of excessive force? How would you prioritize or implement these ideas? Take the opportunity to share that safe streets are streets with fair infrastructure and enforcement aimed at de-escalation.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Women Fight for the Right to Bicycle

In most developed countries, women don’t think twice about riding their bicycle. But in some areas of the world, cultures have distorted women’s right to travel freely, especially targeting bicycling. Women who dare to bicycle in such places, are met at least with harassment and at worst, physical attack. And yet many are facing these dangers in a courageous fight to tear down these myths and open the way for all women to ride bicycles without threat.

In Defying Poverty with Bicycles, I discuss the importance of understanding local culture and barriers to bicycling before embarking on any bicycle program. In places where women are banned from bicycling, no bicycle program could effectively move forward.

If you live in such a place, I hope this latest example of Egyptian women’s courage against this injustice will help you remove your own culture’s stigma in order to set the stage for many effective bicycle projects and programs that will serve all members of your society.

Recent news articles from around the world highlighted a very successful event organized by women and girls in Egypt who call themselves There is No Difference. This excerpt from one article captures their passion:

“…Egyptian girls face the same adversity. Harassment in the streets, threats and abuse are hurled their way as they pedal past. However, a group of 5 individuals who called themselves: “There is No Difference”, are looking to change all of that.

Since the Egyptian government cut fuel subsidies, the cost of public transport has soared. This has resulted in more women cycling as a means of transportation. However, the barriers they face in the street are enough to scare off women from riding bikes, leaving them with little option for travelling.

There is No Difference hosted their first mass bike ride event as part of their new campaign. Supported by men, women and children, hundreds of cyclists rode through the streets of Port Said in Northern Egypt…”

Read more in the article including some links to similar efforts in other countries. At One Street we applaud all these efforts to bring equality to all the world’s citizens through the only machine that can, the bicycle.

Have you had experience fighting similar injustices against any sort of person bicycling? If so, please offer ideas in the comments section.


Monday, January 16, 2017

What If Civil Rights Included Bicycles?

Today is Martin Luther King Day, my favorite holiday because it celebrates opposition to hatred and injustice. One great example is the Montgomery, Alabama bus strike, launched in December of 1955 by Rosa Parks’ brave determination to stay seated on a bus, which set black workers walking and carpooling for 381 days until all Montgomery buses were desegregated. Of all the writings about the bus strike and the hard walking workers endured, there is one single-sentence quote that captures it best for me. Martin Luther King, Jr. told the story to the New York Times in 1961:

On a chill morning in the autumn of 1956, an elderly, toilworn Negro woman… began her slow painful four-mile walk to her job… The old woman’s difficult progress led a passerby to inquire sympathetically if her feet were tired. Her simple answer…, “Yes, friend, my feet is real tired, but my soul is rested.”

The walking itself, the hard, painful walking, and the complex carpool system they set up were points of pride. I realize and respect this. But I’ve always wondered how the movement might have unfolded if they could have used bicycles, too. Many more black people could have participated and the strain on the carpool system would have been eased. Perhaps bikes could have enabled even more bus strikes across the south. And then, imagine how many black workers would have kept riding, free from bus fares and the limits of their routes and schedules.

Unfortunately, in the 1950s and 60s bicycles were viewed only as toys in the U.S. Bikes were made to look like rocket ships and motorcycles, equipped with toy guns and sirens. It’s no wonder our civil rights heroes never even thought of them.

So where are we today in comparison?

A movement has emerged after horrific events with the name Black Lives Matter. That anyone, individual or group, has to proclaim that their life matters should appall us.

Politicians promote hatred and fear to gain power. And it works.

The CEOs of our top bike companies here in the U.S. still refer to bicycling only as a sport, their companies cranking out blingy mountain bikes and road racers with hardly a wink to basic bikes for getting around. Read more in this post.

The civil rights movement continues, it must; expanded now to oppose fearmongering toward any group and stomp out propaganda that segregates. Each of us—anyone who reads blogs like this one, anyone who knows the danger of hatred and prejudice—must protest every act of prejudice, whether through words spoken, police brutality, or through improper transportation provisions.

And let’s finally demand that our bike industry and transportation officials ensure that anyone, no matter how marginalized they may be by our current backslide toward prejudice, can choose the freedom of bicycling for their means of transportation.