People basically stole them.
Last year the Yellow Bikes Crew left close to 700 nicely maintained, perfectly working bicycles for Burners to use as they made their way around the playa. This is no corporately sponsored rideshare program, and there are only three rules: Don’t steal or redecorate the bikes; after you finish riding them, leave them for someone else to use; and wear pants when riding them.
Well, things didn’t work out that way.
This week at the Burning Man Work Ranch, about 12 miles past the event site, an eight-person crew is working to get the bikes working again and restore them to their original, plain green, condition. You see, people grab those bikes and start customizing them and putting locks on them to make them their own.
So don’t do that, ok? Thanks.
While we’re haranguing you about bad bike behavior, here’s a pro tip: Don’t leave your bike behind when you leave Burning Man.
“People think that if they leave their bikes it’s like donating them,” Andrei said out at the ranch. “But it’s not. They’re just making work for us.”
Last year, the bike crews picked up about 2,000 bikes that the “leave no trace” crowd left behind. Again, there may have been good intentions involved: “This bike will find a great new home with someone who really needs it!”
But it really means that the bike crews have to deal with all those abandoned bikes. But there IS a way to get your bike to a new home in a helpful way: Drop them at the Reno Bike Project on your way home. That group is set up to get the bikes into the hands of people who want and need them.
There’s another way you can help, too!
If you want a playa bike and you don’t want the hassle of taking it home or to Reno, buy a 26-inch Huffy Cranbrook Cruiser. They’re available just about everywhere for about $100. They have a single speed, no cables or derailleurs, and they’re perfect for getting around in the dust. And the bike crew is getting the word out that this is the preferred generic playa bike, one that they can easily recondition after the event, and that they can save time and money by standardizing all the parts.
There are signs that the bike campaign is working, too. Of the 2,000 bikes left behind last year, about 250 were Cranbrooks.
“Our community really responded,” Ballyhoo Betty said. “And it’s an easy way to be involved” with communal efforts at Burning Man, she said.
So get a Cranbrook, or if you use the Yellow Bikes, remember that they are community property: they are not your blank canvas for radical self-expression.
“People do weird stuff to their bikes,” Betty said, but she and her crew have made the best of that bad situation. They repurpose all the janky arty stuff into conceptual art centerpieces for the tables at the Last Supper, the last meal that the crews eat on the playa during cleanup. “It’s fun to make weird art,” Betty said.
So, to review: Don’t steal the Yellow Bikes. Don’t leave your bikes behind. (But you can drop off the Cranbrooks at the bike camp at 5:30 and A.) And don’t be that guy or girl with the bad bike behavior.
Some more bike shop pics:
Morning Notes: Today was the first DPW morning meeting held at the Depot. “It’s good to be back on the playa,” Logan said, “and I mean that very sincerely. Welcome home.” … There was all sorts of information shared, but at the top of the list was concern about Whooping Cough. There’s an epidemic underway in California, and the medical staff wanted to know if you have been suffering from a persistent cough. Scary business, obviously, because five confirmed cases would shut down the event. … Booya and Squirelly thanked their tireless road crew, which pounded 1,200 stakes in the ground over the past four days as they built Gate Road and formed the intersections of the city. … The Shade team has also hit the playa running; they’ve got 11 shade structures up already, including the fancy new rig at the Depot. … The Power team reported their progress, as well, with a warning: “The power lines are real, folks,” Witch Doctor said. “What happens if you pound a stake into a power line?” Coyote asked. “You die,” was the answer. … Overhead quote of the day: “Three-legged dogs make me want to try harder.”
We report with great regret that last night was the last night that the Black Rock Saloon would be open for the preseason. The “private gathering place” for the work crews in Gerlach becomes irrelevant once everyone has moved out onto the playa, and because pretty much everyone is out there now, things are shutting down in town. “We wanted to make something nice this year,” Miss Roach said with just the slightest hint of melancholy in her voice. Even though virtually every milestone is solemnized with ceremony out here, there was no special acknowledgment that this was the last night for the bar. Of course, that’s partly because the work crews will come back here after the event, but that’s a long time from now. “We did pretty well,” Miss Roach said. “We’ve got just enough left – mixers, fresh fruit, and tonight we can just burn it all to the ground.” Miss Roach and her crew have some cleanup to do before the troops return. A new ping-pong table was set up in back, and it got pretty heavy use. “It smells like boy in here,” she said.