Lately I’ve been seeing more and more bikes being used by Portland’s homeless population. I’ve started to get to know a few of them and hear their stories and experiences about their nomadic, rolling existence.
Sometimes I won’t meet the owner of the bike, I’ll just observe its load and marvel at the bungee cording skills that it takes to carry everything they own, everywhere they go.
The photo on the right is of Buster and Bill. Bill is always on the move and once he got too tired of walking all day, he got some wheels.
He pulls a trailer and his huge (yet sweet) bulldog named Buster stands atop a mound of bedding and tarps. Hanging from his handlebars are huge bags of recycled cans.
It’s ironic that in the shadow of a bike community that loves to move-by-bike, these guys are on a bike move that never ends.
Jonathan, thanks for this excellent report. Sometimes when pulling my old Blue Sky trailer to Breakfast on the Bridges I have to wonder if folks in my neighborhood think I’m out harvesting recyclables. Then I have to realize it doesn’t matter what they think – we’re all just trying to get around.
The divide between the bikers-by-choice and bikers-by-necessity was made clear on Debbie’s move by bike when a line of us were stopped at a light. One of our number overheard a driver say, “I guess the homeless are out in full force today!”
That was the inspiration for the fundraising portion of the Puppet Parade Bike Move – which, by the way, brought in $181.00 for Habitat for Humanity. Thanks to all who contributed, and let’s keep working to move all of our community forward.
Um, what is ironic about it?
I also note the number of mighty fine trailers (such as Bill & Buster’s) these homeless sport. I dunno… takes a lot of cans to buy one of those.
[ true story but names have been abbreviated to protect the unprotected ]
This story is one F’s gonna tell his grandkids like so “When I was your age, a man could pass out on the street, be awoken by people offering him free breakfast and find his stole bike the next day.
F got wadested at the Swap meet then went wandering the streets to drink with M while walking his bike. Said it was too nice to be inside. Next thing F knows, M’s gone, F is smokin weed with folks who live on the street, then he doesn’t know what happened.
Next morning he woke up to a homeless advocacy group checking to see if he needed some breakfast. He still had his camera, phone, and wallet, but his bike was gone.
That night he went to work cabbing and saw his bike at a bus stop on Burnside. He screeched to a halt and ran out of the cab. He shouted “That’s my bike! That’s my bike!” and the owner just smiled cool and slick. “This is a real cool bike. I bought it off some guy on the street. It’s a real cool bike. I just knew I’d get it back to it’s owner. I paid $15 for it. Glad I could help get it back to you.”
So F gave him $20 and took off.
Ahhhh….. (more or less) Magical Portland.
Here’s a great idea that I’ve been contemplating. Get the agreement of a bike shop owner and print out free bike tube coupons. You give the shop owner a few bucks and get a coupon for a free bike tube. You then give that out to a homeless bike person. I don’t know how they deal with flats, but this would help.
I like the idea about bike tube coupons. They say mobility is the means to independence.
That’s a great idea, Aaron. Something other than Sisters of the Road vouchers. I wonder if the BTA would have ideas for the best way to present this to a bunch of shop owners.
Aw, look, honey, a bum with a bike! I never noticed that before! Hi there, buddy, we’re car-free too! And a cute little dog! Give him a dollar, honey. Hey, you should really ride the Bridge Pedal, it goes right over where you live!
This story reminded me of an idea from “The Ascent of Man” TV series. Bronowski was discussing the differences between nomadic versus agriculturally based lifestyles, and implied that weath could only be accumulated when people settled into a place, since nomads had to carry all possessions.
So is this shift to a bicycle culture, and the idea of bike-moving an example of a type of social equity in the sense that any bike is limited to the load an individual can pull, and this in itself is a form of parity?