Tuesday, January 28th the Santa Cruz City Council will decide whether or not to reinstate the long-standing program of distributing unclaimed bicycles to youth in need. Please let the Council Members know you think this is a valuable program! You can let them know in person at the meeting, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. The meeting is held at SC City Hall, and it will be in the afternoon session, our item starting likely between 3:15-4:15pm.
To: Santa Cruz City Council <email@example.com>
Dear Council Members,
In this time of historic economic hardship, it is essential that we maintain programs which help meet the basic needs of low-income families and individuals. Therefore we urge you to restore the City’s youth bicycle distribution program immediately. While it is easy for many of us to take for granted something as simple as owning a bicycle, for many families the cost of a new or even a professionally-refurbished used bike is prohibitively expensive.
To own a bicycle can make a huge difference in the life of a young person, giving them freedom of transportation, as well as supporting active healthy lifestyles. This value far outweighs any minor revenue that might be generated by auctioning off these unclaimed bicycles.
Thanks for your consideration, and we look forward to the renewal of this valuable program.
Every year the City ends up with hundreds of bikes which are not claimed and must be dealt with somehow. Because the bikes are generally of moderate to low quality and many are in disrepair, they offer little cash value to the City through auctioning. Therefore in 1996 the City began distributing them to youth in need, turning these old bikes into a valuable community resource. The distributions were open to any qualified nonprofit or government agency, and got out many hundreds of bikes to youth who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to own a bicycle.
Although a valuable program, participation varied over the years and sometimes the administration felt like a drain to the SCPD, which in 2008 stopped distributions and began sending bikes instead to the landfill. At that point the nonprofit repair shop the Bike Church approached the City, offering to handle most of the administration of the program. For the next four years, the Bike Church held 16 distributions, getting out 415 bikes through a variety of nonprofits, while salvaging tons of usable material from the scraps that no one else was able to make use of.
In early 2012, the City ended this important program without any notification to the Bike Church or other participating groups. Bikes were delivered instead to a for-profit business that sold many bikes which previously would have gone free to youth, and which did not invite the former nonprofit participants to take any of the bicycles. The five groups that had matched up the most bikes to youth prior to this change—Barrios Unidos, Green Ways to School, Project Bike Trip, Watsonville Bike Shack, and Western Service Workers Association—all wrote letters to the City praising the former program and the Bike Church's management of it, and asking that it be reinstated. However no changes were made at that time.
The following summer in August 2013, acknowledging that the municipal code does not allow distributions through a for-profit business, the City suspended distributions entirely. City Manager Bernal stated at that time the intention to invite proposals from nonprofits to partner with the City in renewing the program. However due to behind-the-scenes pressure by some Council Members this plan was never moved forward, with bikes now being auctioned off for as far as we know the first time since 1996.
Fortunately, the City Council will have the opportunity to vote on this matter next week, and we hope they will listen to the overwhelming community support for giving the bikes to youth instead of auctioning them off.
Lastly, we wanted to let you know we have a discussion about this issue on the Civinomics site, which tries to foster constructive dialogues and allows you to vote on things like this: https://civinomics.com/initiative/4QQW/reinstate-distribution-of-unclaimed-bicycles-to-youth/show
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The Bike Church Tool Cooperative is a collectively run organization. Various Mechanics update this blog and website.