Hypocrites on Wheels

I’d like to think that a radical social movement could run a successful bike share program.

Burning Man 2011 has proven me wrong.

After a certain point, watching people horde, hide, and lock their “yellow bikes” gets downright embarrassing.  And the more “radical” their lifestyle, the worse it looks:

  • People who do an hour of yoga every morning, recycle like a socially conscious hoarder in a box factory, and visualize world peace so often it’s taken out a restraining order, will spend a week hiding a bike that doesn’t belong to them.
  • People who advocate for an overthrow of the corporate oligarchy, speak so much truth to power that it erodes the enamel on their teeth, and march with any group that has the word “anti-“ in their mission statement, will put a lock a bicycle that they’re supposed to give away.
  • People who are unafraid to walk around naked, are so polyandrous that anthropologists are studying their mating habits, and are so sex-positive that sex has asked them to tone it down a little, will clutch a yellow bike to their side all week and get offended if you look at it funny.

In some ways, Burning Man’s bike share program may be a better measure of our community than all the high-minded rhetoric and big gestures we make. 

High-minded rhetoric requires no sacrifice:  just think of Martin Luther King Jr. and open your mouth.  Then go to lunch.  Big gestures are surprisingly easy:   corporate executives and corrupt politicians make them all the time.  They generally involve other people’s labor and money you’ll never miss.

But giving up a bicycle that you want to use later, just because you’re supposed to share it?  That’s a personal sacrifice – even a major inconvenience.  As burners, we’re happy to tell corporations to put people before profits and lecture about the need to decommodify … but decommodification is about putting people before a commodity – especially when it’s inconvenient.

Burning Man has created an environment where it is easy to live according to the principles we claim to espouse – they even bought the bikes.  At the time I saw it as a nice civic gesture, but now I see it as a more fundamental challenge:  do all the hair extensions we wear actually signify something real, or are they just hair extensions?  Does all our talk about decommoditization actually lead to more sharing in ways that aren’t glamorous?

Having an environment in which it’s easy to live up to our principles doesn’t mean much if we’re still not doing it.

I’ve asked myself what Burning Man can do differently to make people share the shared bicycles … which is absurd.  You can’t make people share.  Burning Man, in addition to being a huge party and an extraordinary psychological challenge and somewhat magical, is an opportunity to become better than we are.  To be the people we want to be.  For many of us that involves big gestures drenched in nudity and sex;  for many of us, it involves single-minded dedication to an art project.  But the future of our movement will also depend on the small gestures that determine whether burners really make good neighbors.

As a “festival,” these small gestures are irrelevant to Burning Man’s success.  The event was amazing without a bike share program, and it’s still great with a bike share program that’s widely abused.  But Burning Man’s success as a cultural movement hinges on whether Burners make compelling cultural ambassadors … especially to people who have already been burned by crooks with soaring rhetoric and big gestures

The world doesn’t care (beyond a tabloid fashion) how much yoga we do or how much sex we have or how lofty our rhetoric is.  The world’s been there and done that.  But the world desperately needs people who are serious about decommoditization in all the small ways.

Is that us?  It’s certainly some of us.  But in the big picture … I don’t know.  I look forward to finding out.

Caveat is the Volunteer Coordinator for Media Mecca at Burning Man. Contact him at Caveat (at) Burningman.com

About the author: Caveat Magister

Caveat is Burning Man's Philosopher Laureate. A founding member of its Philosophical Center, he is the author of The Scene That Became Cities: what Burning Man philosophy can teach us about building better communities, and Turn Your Life Into Art: lessons in Psychologic from the San Francisco Underground. He has also written several books which have nothing to do with Burning Man. He has finally got his email address caveat (at) burningman (dot) org working again. He tweets, occasionally, as @BenjaminWachs

59 Comments on “Hypocrites on Wheels

  • StaceyS says:

    Yes. Agreed. But given what happens at Burning Man that isn’t exactly what we hope for, I believe its pretty good, considering this is probably 1 week out of the year when people might actually think about this.

    One of my yearly gifts is stealth (and not so stealth) bike repair. Of this gift, I’ll often find yellow bikes abandoned and broken around the playa. I’ll bring them in off the playa, fix them and put them on a bike rack at Center Camp.

    I usually fix bikes without much fanfare. I don’t really like the attention. But I’ve been thinking of leaving a small card that says, “Your bike got fixed by me. Pass it forward…”

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  • Mark Atwood says:

    There are a large plurality of people who are at Burning Man who act just as you describe wrt the Yellow Bikes. One of the people in my camp was physically threatened and then thrown out of the camp of a bunch of guys he had spent the night drinking with, when he tried to take “their” yellow bike to go home with.

    In addition to that group, there is a huge cohort of people who steal a bike early in the week, ride it around with their own bike lock, and then abandon it on the last day. A person in my camp had their bike stolen literally seconds after he dismounted it at the portapotties. He stepped off the bike, turned around for a moment, and someone else just jumped on his bike and pedelled away.

    I’ve been thinking that a “bait bike” program would be useful, awesome, and hilarious. Especially if it could be combined with arrests and ejections.

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  • Kent Moffat says:

    Sounds like it’s time to do away with the yellow bike program. I’m sure there must be disadvantaged kids who are more deserving of these bikes than our community. I’m sad to write that but after several years of the same behavior, it doesn’t seem likely to change.

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  • Kent Moffat says:

    On a related note, why does the Burning Man site include statements such as “No bike is considered stolen unless the lock was cut…” I suppose it’s a pointed way to emphasize that everyone should lock their bike, but I believe that it also sets a tone which seems to say “it’s ok to steal a bike if it’s not locked.”

    Why is this ok? Just because someone is unwise enough to not lock their bike, SHOULD NOT mean that stealing it is ok. And yes, I wrote “stealing.” Taking someone else’s property without their permission or knowledge = stealing, not “borrowing.”

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  • joe says:

    Gee I don’t know. What is the percentage of offenders versus people who do it right? Is it that big? Isn’t it usually a small minority that makes the biggest noise? I know the expectations at BM are pretty big but there are 50 thousand + people there. Many are just learning how to share and be giving for the first time in their lives. Bikes are almost a means of survival on the playa. Maybe if the expectaion of “use the bike once, then give it to someone else when you’re done” was somehow communicated with the bike program. Other than that maybe just smile and turn the other cheek.

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  • MisterE says:

    I found an abandoned Yellow (green) bike early one Saturday morning. The back wheel was hanging off it and the tire was flat. It wasn’t in too terrible shape, so I dragged it back to camp with the intent of patching the tube and putting it back on the road, but I found that the tube was missing. Somebody had gone thru the trouble of taking the tube out, throwing it all back together and dumping it.

    One of my campmates had a spare used tube, so we got it going again. I took it to the Illuminati village on the Esplanade. parked it unattended, and it was gone in about 15 min. I hope it served many people well for the rest of the weekend…

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  • dj riz says:

    …wait….wait… you’re telling me that a significant number of people showed up with bike LOCKS, but no bike ?.. that’s some RADICAL radical self reliance there.

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  • harinama says:

    Someone had the gall to load up a yellow bike with tons of personal items. My wife grabbed them all and placed them on the ground next to the bike before taking it. Guess the previous “owner” ran after her pissed off.

    Maybe it IS time for the yellow bike program to go away. Gotta wonder how many are stolen and taken “home” each year.

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  • Sullyman says:

    I noticed a lot of this hording activity this year too. Not sure if I would go so far as to say they might as well stop, but it is sad that it causes problems. The ones where it gets dangerous to grab a yellow bike because “it belongs” to someone else are definitely a bummer.
    My main thought is: The Playa IS NOT a perfect place. It CAN be perfectly blissful and is often simply incredible. I was out at the Temple on Monday and three guys in their twenties with bad attitudes were making a loud point about “needing” a yellow bike, “where the hell is all those yellow bikes bitch.” It bothered me and its a bummer but my solution was to walk to the other side of the Temple and find someone who was there for the right reasons.
    Many wonderful things can happen on the Playa but if you go out there thinking you are entering a nirvana where everyone is there for the right reasons – you are a fool and you need to re-consider. On the other hand, if you realize you must be aware of your surroundings and avoid the 5% of idiots, that means there are 47,500 other people looking to share great times with you. Generally that means you need to walk about 100 ft to avoid the A@#H@#$s and find a Burner ready to share good times with you.

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  • Mister W says:

    I’d like to see some hard numbers here.
    I’m sure the complaints in the article are accurate, as far as anecdotes go.
    But if we’re talking about changing or ending the program, let’s see some numbers.
    How many green bikes were provided each year for the last few years?
    How many were still around at the end?
    How many of those were still functional?

    Generally, it seems to me that this argument is flawed:
    A: We experimented with providing a community resource at Burning Man
    B: Some (a notable few or many many) people abused the system
    C: Fuck it, that didn’t work, let’s junk it

    By the same logic, the porta-potties should have been privatized years ago.

    How about some alternative solutions:
    -Better advertising/information about how the system works
    -Print “Set this green bike free” stickers and recruit volunteers to go out looking for locked bikes to sticker
    -Weld a digital alarm clock that blares “Take me home” every day at 5:30am, with a proximity sensor so it doesn’t go off if it’s at center camp
    -Stagger the release of the bikes
    -Lots more better ideas probably exist

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  • There was the yellow bike locked in front of Media Mecca and another inverted with no pedals.

    For a group of people who either refuse to lock their bikes or abandon them after, why is it a problem to share a free bike?

    (I kept this reply short :) )

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  • Eric says:

    Maybe there should be a Yellow Shoes program. Leave a bunch of green shoes for people to borrow. Then when they hoard them, at least they will be enjoyable pedestrians instead of contributing to the bike problem. Go for a walk, people! You won’t regret it! [end rant]

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  • sk says:

    This is why I bring bolt cutter and an angle grinder with a cutting wheel to the playa

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  • Ditto SK above — I’ve been with him at Burning Man when we’ve found yellow bikes padlocked. We cut em loose and wheel em back to the dept in charge of them (I forget its name — water & power?). Usually we get applauded. A few people looked like they wanted to stop us. We basically said, Not your bike, fuck you.

    I’ve seen people leaving Burning Man with yellow bikes chained to the back of their RV.

    The way to prevent people from hoarding yellow bikes is to prevent them from hoarding yellow bikes, not bitching about it.

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  • That Guy says:

    I like the bolt-cutter idea. It’s hard for people to let go, and burningman is a great place to learn; though, it does not guarantee the lesson. Think about how you learned a lesson. Was it through an act of kindness and love, was it via an asshole puking on your favorite dslr camera, was it by serendipitously running into a long lost friend from around the world, was it by waking up in the med tent?

    One of the lessons (and gifts) of the yellow bike program is to give us a chance to see how a massive gift is received. Some receive it well with it’s impermanence, some hoard it, some came prepared enough to not need it… The yellow bike program is really a microscope, or litmus test, into the reality of what burningman is becoming. It makes us all vulnerable, because we are all together in this. When one person takes, we all take, when one person gives we all give.

    That is all.

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  • LvF says:

    I know of at least one camp that provides bikes to its camp members, and the bikes were bright, bright yellow — and they were mistaken for BORG bikes more than once (thanks to the “yellow bike” nomenclature). *shrug* I saw bikes abandoned in the middle of the playa and in deep playa at all times of day and night.

    Yeh, BRC is the city we dream of, but it’s still a city founded, in part, on the principle of radical inclusion. That means, by default, that not everyone will share the same ideals. Growth is generational, and the population and its denizens will ebb and flow with those who share a vision, and those who have opposing visions. I mean, we have a city in which Death Guild and Pink Heart share a life. That’s pretty impressive.

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  • I did notice that this year the yellow bikes stopped having the instruction card, saying they were one-way transportation and explaining the yellow bike program. Due to this, I talked to a bunch of first-year burners who thought yellow bikes were just free for the taking, and if you wanted to decorate/paint/etc it then it became your bike. Obviously this isn’t true, but there wasn’t a label on the bikes to say so, and so many other people were there to set a poor example that

    I got my bike stolen out of my camp this year (not during a party or anything, just at night) and ended up needing a yellow bike, and I used them from time to time (never holding onto them or painting them or any nonsense). Now, you would hope that the yellow bike program would cause there to be less bike stealing as those inclined to steal bikes would get yellow ones; but rather we see the yellow bikes bring out the selfishness in people when they paint up, disguise and lock the bikes.

    I say nix the yellow bikes — it’s fallen victim to the tragedy of the commons. We need to be radically self reliant and bring our own bikes and methods to secure them from the minority of selfish burners who think that personal bike racks in camps are an easy way to get a free ride when you’re tired.

    At the least, we need to bring back the info cards on the bikes..


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  • John Keller says:

    This program was never in keeping with Radical Self Reliance. Can any vetran imagine a burn with out your burn bike, me neither, so why are you encouraging virgins to hit the city without one? Donate these bikes to local kids and bag up the program.

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  • Mister W says:

    John Keller, that’s a pretty sweeping claim.
    Would you say that porta-potties, too, are “never in keeping with Radical Self Reliance” ?

    I think the yellow bikes are a great option for virgins, not so much to depend on, but to focus their planning–what do they need a bike for, if they’re bringing one; how far do they plan to roam; how much do they need/want to spend on a bike that will get playafied. It’s a great introduction to the plan for everything you can / make educated cost-benefit choices that’s very much a part of Radical Self Reliance.

    Do you see the 10 principles as holy writ/dogma/commandments?
    Or as guiding principles to constantly push us to a higher level of participation and fulfillment?

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  • Elf says:

    I think the yellow bike program is just one example of where the messaging about the Burning Man experience has stopped scaling to the experience itself.

    The org addresses the issue of income disparity of participants in ticket price only – after a ticket is acquired, everyone is expected to provide their own transportation (to/from, as well as on playa itself), food, water, shelter, etc.
    Everything we wear gets dusty in no time, and we all bring crap bikes to playa, and I think it makes the “haves” vs. the “have nots” harder to tell apart for people who fall into the “have” category – it is easy to presume that everyone you see is there as they would like to be.

    My guess is that while there are clearly visible examples of people being assholes, the majority of people who take and keep yellow bikes are feeling that they need the bike; other people on foot aren’t carrying signs that say “I wish I could find a yellow bike”, and imagining need in a random stranger is even more of a stretch.

    In 2010, two separate sets of people took water from my camp. One set came over with empty 5 gallon containers and asked for water – and we filled two of their containers for them, as we had calculated we had water to spare. And we did – so much so, that it was only in the final tally that the camp realized we were short 3 5 gallon containers, which must have been stolen from us during the week.

    What’s the difference between the people that came by and asked for water, and the people that snuck in and took it, without asking, without giving us the chance to assess whether we had 15 gallons to spare?

    I think that one of the problems in the org’s continued messaging about self reliance and focus on gift (rather barter) economy is that messaging about what it means to be a community got either lost or too diluted.

    Being a community means making an effort to provide for the have-nots, which the yellow bike program does. If it also creates incorrect illusions about how the program works, who it helps and how, messaging around that should be reconsidered.

    Being a community means sharing resources without judgment for the need. If the message isn’t getting across to people that if they’re low on water, the community will find a way of making it work, then we’re really failing at creating community.

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  • The Gypsy Wind says:

    As the economy of the USA continues to steadily implode, people fee much less secure… whether they are at the radically materialistic unreality of Burning Man, or not.

    Decommodification (is not a real word) will become radical decommodification in the real world in the not too distant future.

    Here is a suggestion for the 10 principles of burning man:

    Include words such as: Friendship, Love, Peace, Compassion, and Respect

    Pencil a few good words anywhere within the 10 principles, thank you.

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  • John Keller says:

    As the 10 principles are way young compared to Burn Culture, of coarse they are guidlines. After all they are filled with words like “Strive” and “Encouraged”. Radical Self Reliance however is the greatest thing the BORG ever made. Not having a bike at the burn has to be un-bearable. I see those refugees of the deep playa slowly trudging their way home in the dark (glow sticks long since done). They look horrid.

    A bike is as essential as water and shelter, no one should be encouraged to live in our city without one. I don’t know if the yellow bikes encourage stealing but I do know that I stopped bringing my yellow cruiser when I heard of this program.

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  • Spiralcma says:

    It was my first burn this year and a good friend told me that bringing a bike to BM was a terrible idea. Turns out that THAT was a terrible idea. I learned about this awesome yellow bike thing and magically found one one evening, and got to see everything out in the deep playa. The rest of the week I kept my eyes peeled for another one for my husband, but all we saw were locked ones. So, so sad.

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  • Chrome says:

    This reminds me of when the people I was with and I showed up to the playa on Thursday and saw a damaged yellow bike abandoned on the way to where our camp was. Wanting to repair it we grabbed it and rode it alongside the car to get tools at the camp we were headed to. About 3 hours later (after we had repaired it, rode it to the temple and left it there) some veteran looking burner came to our camp and not only tried to scrutinize us for taking it but tried to get physical towards the girl in our camp that had grabbed it. He was full of rage, ignorant and didn’t even listen to the fact that we were repairing it until we explained to his girlfriend what had happened, he was then immediately calm.
    I think what is happening with the yellow bikes is a bad mix of too many burning man virgins and not enough understanding of the rules. Perhaps announcing “no more yellow bikes for 2012” would cause everyone to bring their own (self-reliance) OR it might just increase bike thefts, who knows?

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  • Cowgirl says:

    Clearly the community has not earned the right to this program. Nix it.

    It was abused in 2008 and its abused now.


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  • masterbill says:

    The bike theft problem would not be as bad if they stopped the free tix program like others I saw many in pick ups leaving with more in the back than passengers We keep EVERY THING locked up in the armoured RV !! nothing is out side ! its sad but to know there are thieves on the playa and possably the ones that did not pay to attend needs to be looked at ! I pity the one I catch taking mine lots of things are not found by the greeters/searchers !! like i said before limit the number of tix maybe as low as 35K next year less things missing can blend in with less people .all in all a great time we had 4 years since last attended things HAVE chainged

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  • JV says:

    Bring a fucking bike. Don’t rely on others to provide. Radical self-reliance. I think the yellow bike program only encourages bad behavior.

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  • proudmari says:

    How about renaming the “yellow bike” program for the green bikes – “share bike”? Spell it out in the program name. Share Bikes are bikes we share. We do get possesive nor show possesive behavior when it comes to using the Share Bike. Laminate instructions and attach securely to bike with the notation; “a locked share bike is a very bad thing, expect the bolt cutters to arrive soon”….and for those with the share bike on vehicles during exodus…expect a visit from your fellow exodus mates…this behavior-uncool. PR the program hard and be clear about the expectations….share bikes are a savior to those who experience bike implosions unexpectedly. Tweek the program, it is good and represents care and compassion, never can have too much of that…

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  • proudmari says:

    eek…edit ” we do NOT get possessive….”

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  • First timer says:

    I’m a burning man first timer and came to see the art and attend a wedding.
    I completely understand the radical self reliance part of the burning man culture.
    You need to be responsible for your self.

    I also understand the concept of trying to remove commerce from the actual venue.

    The concept of moving this to the larger world seems destined to failure.
    Its been tried thousands and thousands of times in the history of man.
    It always works… until the group grows to the point at which there are strangers in the group. At this point the group shame that gets applied to slackers and non-contributors goes away for strangers and people start to take more than they produce or provide. This requires an organizational structure to enforce the rules. This enforcement is not voluntary cooperation so it takes an authoritarian form. As the group grows the power in this authority grows and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Can someone explain how decomdification and communal effort differs from the basic tenants of socialism/Communism that have failed over and over throughout history?

    I’m a builder and creator of things, and might be attracted to contributing art or other engineered things to the community, but general level of hypocrisy from the hard core burners is really hard to overlook.

    How do you put things like “Civic responsibility” into an event whose core is an orgy of conspicuous destructive consumption?

    The Buddhist concept of impermanence really fits with the event, but from what I saw of the participants, I call bullshit on at least half of the 10 principals.

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  • Pristine says:

    I would never use a yellow bike. For me it’s like using someone elses well worn hiking boots, fundamentally works but isn’t comfortable because they don’t realty fit well. I love my bike; it’s light, fast, has all kinds of space to carry things and everything is adjusted to for maximum speed and efficiency for my body. Besides, not all bikes are created equal and it takes too much to get a bike to fit right to give it up.

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  • There is no analogy between the portapotties and the bike program. First of all, it is quite possible for everyone to manage their own eliminations — everyone who goes to Juplaya does this with a bucket and some cat litter. But, at the scale of Burning Man, if just a few people fail to do this, it becomes a public nuisance, and possibly a public health problem.

    But if a few people show up and don’t have bikes, nobody else is inconvenienced in any way. I even have friends who never bring bikes — they believe that walking is best to appreciate the experience.

    As much as I love the idea of a posse of Burners who go out bringing justice to bike rustlers, it’s probably best to just eliminate the bike program. I have never, ever seen a share bike when I wanted one.

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  • 666isMONEY says:

    I agree with what Mister W Says:

    September 12th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I’d like to see some hard numbers here.
    I’m sure the complaints in the article are accurate, as far as anecdotes go.
    But if we’re talking about changing or ending the program, let’s see some numbers.
    How many green bikes were provided each year for the last few years?
    How many were still around at the end?
    How many of those were still functional?

    I saw many yellow bikes without seats and wheels.

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  • Urban says:

    Have faith. Hope is not lost.

    We are all starving to learn freedom. Like people starving during a famine, people horde whatever they can pull towards them. The bikes set out for all confuse us. We don’t understand these simple freedoms, we don’t understand true sharing and how to survive without possessing.

    Most of us have been raised in a Society of possession,, strength and acceptance through possession.

    Give us time to learn what the yellow bicycles mean. When those starving realize we will not chase after them and retrieve our possession, when we stand to the sides of their path and watch as they furiously, with faces of guilt under temporary grins of “I got it!”, then we will learn.

    Get us time to learn freedom. Much of this is new to us.

    Have faith. Hope is not lost.

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  • Corvus says:

    Last year I was Temple Guardian for the Temple of Flux, and we were heavily discouraging people from taking their bikes into the interior. A guy pedalled up on a yellow bike and startd to take it inside when I stopped him saying, “Sorry. On foot only inside the temple.” He kind of stammered and I could tell he was afraid of losing his bike so I told him I’d watch over it for him. He took about twenty minutes (no one asked for the bike) and when he came back out and thanked me, it turned out he’d done the first assembly of the temple in Oakland. Made me happy I’d accommodated him.

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  • Boomer says:

    With one of us arriving from England, and both of us driving together from Minnesota, we ran out of time, room and resources to get appropriate bikes. We debated it thoroughly and in the end did not bring them. I was a bit nervous about this, as it was our first time at BM and I had gotten the message that a bike was essential survival gear.

    And….in our experience they are NOT as essential survival gear. You can practice radical self-reliance while on foot! We walked miles, we met people along the way, we talked one-on-one, participated in many things. We spent a wonderful morning cruising to nowhere on a mutant pirate ship because we were able to ask for a ride and hop on. We got experienced at dodging bicyclists who were in a big hurry to run us over while going….somewhere else.

    There were times when I would have liked to have a bike. I wanted to get out to see a particular art piece, but a look at the map and a calculation of the distance showed that getting there would take more creativity than I was able/willing to put into that activity at that time. When you are going to be gone from camp for hours, and walk for miles, you need to be doubly self-reliant. If I could have found a yellow bike I would have made that trip, but neither of us ever saw one of these bikes the entire week. Oh well, I missed seeing that creation. But I guarantee that nobody can see everything, with or without a bike.

    So the message that “you must have a bike, it is as essential to your BM experience as food, water and shelter” seems to encourage people to sort of panic, and hoard the bikes as essential to survival, which they are not. And the “if you don’t have a bike you aren’t practicing self-reliance” is not helpful either, and quite untrue. Perhaps instead of junking the yellow bike program, the message about bikes could be re-tuned. A bike is not essential, there are other ways to get around BRC, walking is enjoyable.

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  • DaddYO says:

    Having a usage note on the bike is a good idea.
    More bikes might make it work since there will be a loss number.
    Suggest usage time limit. Techno solution -When the lights stop blinking time is up.
    On exodus watch for losers.
    Make it clear as part of survival guide why there are bikes for this.
    Mark them more clearly with big flag on back.
    Spread the word in the city on how it works and what to do if not working.

    Best of all you could Bring an extra bike to gift.

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  • Alex Reid says:

    I’m wondering – if the community bike program should continue – if it’s worth it to have GPS tracing on each bike, if at the very least to see how much the bikes are being used. Outside of that, shaming works..

    On the subject of bikes being left behind, does the value of the bikes themselves outweigh the cost of transporting them to a storage staging area? And wouldn’t this cost be included in the next year’s ticket price?

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  • David Chen says:

    Here is a novel idea. If there is a way to digitally lock the yellow bikes.
    Each person that want to borrow a bike would need to go to center camp and be provided with an unique unlock code. This code is good for only a limited period of time per bike, say half an hour. Once the time is used up, the code is no longer good and users will need to jump on another yellow bike, borrow a friend’s code, or walk.
    This way, the bikes are constantly being put back in circulation.

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  • thedani says:

    i remember in 07, friends saw a yellow bike locked to a participant bike in a neighboring camp and proceeded to MIG weld the two bikes together. radical fuck yer hoarding!

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  • Ariela says:

    I was a frequent yellow bike rider. I removed piles of other bikes, in several instances, from the hidden yellow bike I spotted. I also am familiar with the feeling of “oh shit, I’m going to be stuck here without a bike as soon as I turn my back.” It’s rough. It’s really rough to not have a bike when all of your buddies do.

    But, screw it. I know its my own fault for not securing a good bike. As it was, I became a master art car hopper, and often rode two on a bike with strong friends.

    A city takes all types. Beautiful, ugly, everything in between. Many of us come from tough cities where something free stands for “who’s gonna take it first,” I believe it’s our job to educate, and not simply chastise, the people who don’t understand communal effort and civic responsibility. It’s not like you plop onto the playa and are suddenly reborn. It takes some time, and sometimes, some learning.

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  • k says:

    my only problem with the yellow bike deal, is that you can end up screwed out in the middle of the playa because someone took your bike while you paused to look at art on your journey….or stop at a porta potty.

    i went on an art bike ride with 15 people one night and out in the midle of the playa admiring an art installation i left my yellow bike amongst everyone elses for about 3 minutes. i came back and it was gone. i was with 15 people with bikes and was now bikeless. luckily everyone was super cool and declared everyone help me find another yellow bike and walked back to center camp with me and searched for another bike for me. this took about 45 minutes.

    maybe the yellow bikes arent for people to go on art bike rides with? im not sure… i just think it isnt always helpful when someone is constantly taking your borrowed means to get from a to b along the way, and then you have to walk all over looking for another one… in the heat with worn out feets!

    im just sayin i think there can be a different approach…especially with all the bikes that are abandoned each year. loan it for the week, people get a deposit back on their way out when its returned? i dunno something like that….?

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  • k says:

    also, the only rreason i have ever had to need to use a yellow bike was because my own bike had broken or the person who was kind enough to bring my bike to the playa because i didnt have the means to hadnt arrived yet.

    id just prefer to have my own bike and not worry about yellow bike disappearing…

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  • Paperboy says:

    Thank you for your words. Many positive comments here.

    I think we should keep trying the yellow bike program.

    We’re pretty good without trash cans. Maybe we can help out w bikes.

    We do have to teach, and of course the bikes have to have instructions, if for nothing else, end the argument you’re having with the moron putting his lock on.

    Our camp lost 4 bikes this year, and we are pretty good about locking up. Danger ranger said there were over 2,000 bikes left this year, so the problem can not be number of bikes.

    Let’s keep working on this. Oh, and Gypsy Wind, you are right, frame it with love!

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  • Tweekerbell says:

    i think I might have witnessed the episode at the portos mentioned at the very top. If not it was really similar. It was REALLY disturbing. This was my first burn & that incident sent me back to my camp almost in tears.
    First of all someone rode a yellow/green bike to the portos. Really? You’re gonna take a bike while someone is in there peeing for 1 to 3 minutes at most?
    Second how do you know that individual decorated the bike? Maybe they snagged a decorated yellow bike that was “abandoned” cut free.
    the girl may not have bothered to undecorate she was just riding, I dunno.

    The incident proceeds with the poor girl coming out of the portos to her stuff being thrown on the ground and verbally accosted about how “wrong” her behavior is. No questions asked. Mind you it turned into a mob against 1. I had to walk away because people weren’t being reasonable.
    Someone gave her a bike to tide from 430/d to 9:00 & like h.
    If people are going to act like fools on both sides there needs to be more direction or no bikes to fight over.

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  • James 3 says:

    i agree some better communication about the yellow bike program is a first step. sticker them with a SHARE logo and make it clear this is tied to the core principles. People are ashamed to litter, and should be ashamed to abuse the yellow bike program. Bolt cutter patrol for yellow bikes should be …encouraged? i think clear “parking spots” for yellow bikes in busy places should be highlighted, with the rules that a bike unattended for 5 minutes outside that area is fair game. if it was easier to find a yellow bike when you need one, there would be no reason to hoard. it IS a circular issue hard to solve…how many official yellow bikes are there? is it a supply/demand issue?’

    i had my bike stolen one year while dancing. and i used yellow bikes to survive the rest of the week. when i could find one. but yeah,. that was terrible. people ‘borrowing” others bikes is theft, straight up, and should NOT be tolerated.

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  • Level says:

    My beautiful bike “shenanigans” was ripped on Tuesday afternoon while I was performing at Underground Souls camp at 2:05 And Esplenade. I put years of love and energy into my trusty steed, and of course was devastated when I finished my set and found her gone. Yes, I should have known better than to not lock her up, yes I have been a bit more vigilant in my lack of judgement. I sulked for a good hour about it, but, then I remembered what the playa was all about. Challenges, and overcoming them. That evening, my beautiful fiancee and I were contemplating how the hell we were going to get to wherever we had planned on going that night and said to each other, “screw our plans, let’s find a car.” little did we know we would have the most amazing time of our lives meeting new people all over the deep playa. I still miss my bike, but in retrospect, it was the best thing to ever happen to us. To whomever stole my bike, thank you!!

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  • K says:

    The bike I’d bought months ahead of time turned out last minute to have problems that we couldn’t fix in time, so we bought a new bike the night before we left. It was a mountain bike, and I haven’t ridden a bike in 10 years, made it very very difficult to ride. I crashed everywhere. Finally just gave it to a friend whose ride didn’t have enough room for his bike and walked or took a yellow bike when I needed to get somewhere. It really was disconcerting to see so many of them locked up. Next year I’m definitely taking bolt cutters.

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  • jose coronel says:

    Hola a todos los organizadores del burning man 2011, quiciera saber como subir fotos, del evento como tal de este año donde fui con un amigo que participo dentro del programa con el proyecto burning passaport, tengo las fotos que hicimos en el evento y desearia compartirlas con los demas en la pagina oficial pero no se como hacerlo. gracias

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  • Charles says:

    GPS tracking on bikes to ‘see if it works’ is stupid. Of course it works, could you find a community bike…ever?

    Here’s the thing…I found several broken down community bikes. No instructions on where to take them. I spent hours asking and nobody had an answer. Finally I found the maintenance camp with the RENO sign and nobody was there. So I went back at night and nobody was there.

    One night I’m at center camp looking for a bicycle and none are to be found. Two other fellows gave up looking and decided to steal other people’s bicycles.

    Maybe there needs to be more emphasis placed on the community bicycles in future years. What are the rules? (Most people don’t know) Where do you take them when they break? How do you volunteer to repair them?

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  • The Hun says:

    Charles – that camp with the RENO sign wasn’t the maintenance camp. There used to be a bike shop in Center Camp, but for some reason it wasn’t there this year. Not sure why.

    Maybe in future years we can attach a little instruction card to each bike!

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  • Travis says:

    Hello all, I am the manager of the YB program. Thanks for taking the time to post your ideas. I’m glad to see most of you appreciate the bikes, and their rules. Let me clarify a few questions from above, then I’ll continue monitoring this thread for new ones.

    1. Burningman did not buy the bikes. The Program was initiated in 2006 by the Black Label Bike Club. In 2007 a large donation created a sizable expansion of the project. This resource is a gift from those who care to make it happen. Just as any other project or camp on the playa, this is our way of participating at the event.

    2. To say the project should end because it draws attention to the populations failure to live up to the ideals of the project and event is non secquiter.

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  • Travis says:

    Hello all, I am the manager of the YB program. Thanks for taking the time to post your ideas. I’m glad to see most of you appreciate the bikes, and their rules. Let me clarify a few questions from above, then I’ll continue monitoring this thread for new ones.

    1. Burningman did not buy the bikes. The Program was initiated in 2006 by the Black Label Bike Club. In 2007 a large donation created a sizable expansion of the project. This resource is a gift from those who care to make it happen. Just as any other project or camp on the playa, this is our way of participating at the event.

    2. To say the project should end because it draws attention to the populations failure to live up to the ideals of the project, and principles of the event, is not a logical conclusion. Instead we should embrace this as an opportunity to recognize our short comings, and address them. Ignoring our problems only leads to them manifesting in new ways.

    3. Yellow Bikes are only a one way guarantee. Just assume that the minute you stop riding it, it will be used by someone else. That’s the whole point. Even if you are on an art tour, even if your going to the bathroom. Learn to accept the gift for what it is, not what you want it to be. Even here in the posts I see folks referring to them as “my yellow bike”. Their is no “mine” in yellow bike. The bikes belong to the project that created them, and are merely on loan to the population.

    4. Decorating YB”s is one of the worst things you can do. It is a combination of theft, and vandalism. If you find a decorated YB, please remove it from the person trying to claim it as their own. Next, immediately take whatever steps possible to un-decorate it, so you are not accused of the offense. If this is not possible,(maybe the bike has been painted), please deliver it to a ranger outpost and request they contact Travis, or anyone on the YB crew. We will collect it, and return it t service. If you witness YB’s being painted or duct taped, etc…find a ranger, and have them contact Travis on DPW 4. Spread the word that theft and vandalism are both crimes in NV.

    5. Most of the bikes have rules attached, but we ran short on replacement tags this year. All YB’s will be clearly labeled with the rules, and these rules are also clearly stated online, in the Survival Guide, etc…Expect further coverage from all BM related media sources for 2012.

    6. Some of you requested #’s. This information, although not shared publicly, is tracked and reviewed by the group managing the project, a non-profit known as Yellow Bike Works.

    7. We all talk a big game about being some type of idealized society. Time to live up to the claims (as most do fairly well). Civic Responsibility is a principle that is often overlooked by more exciting ideas. Take the time to determine what you think it means. To me it means pushing myself and others to become the best citizens we can be.

    There are many, many more things I could say on this subject. Instead I will welcome your questions regarding all bike related topics. I am currently drafting a bike policy manifesto for the event. Your ?’s and input will help assure this document is the long awaited, answer to all ?’s regarding bikes at BM.

    President-Yellow Bike Works
    DPW Bike Manager
    Citizen of BRC

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  • Fuck Off says:

    Shut up hippy.

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