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Danny Dunn is Portland’s pedaling trash picker-upper

Danny Dunn hard at work.
(Photos: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

Have you ever looked around as you roll through the streets and thought, “Geez, there’s so much trash everywhere!” I certainly have. And while I’ve often thought of doing something about it, Portlander Danny Dunn has taken action.

Since the end of August, Danny has been picking up trash while he bikes around town. With a simple system of plastic buckets strapped to his front rack and a $25 grabber tool, Danny glides along, making Portland cleaner one piece of trash at a time.

I met up with him in Arbor Lodge yesterday.

Danny moved to Portland with his wife in 2011 so she could attend school at Lewis & Clark College. He told me he first noticed how trashy streets were when when he lived in an apartment next to a vacant lot at SW Barbur Blvd and Hooker Street. “It was disgusting,” he recalled. “There was a ton of trash and the lane was full of awful things.” When his family visited from rural Wisconsin, they complained about it too. “It’s terrible here,” Danny remembers them saying, “Why is it so bad?!”

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After thinking about it a while, Danny combined his ingenuity, work-ethic, and admirable sense of civic duty with his very well-used Surly Cross-Check — and a two-wheeled, trash-collecting vehicle was born.

Danny doesn’t have a set route and his collection routine is haphazard. He prefers to work on sidestreets or protected lanes because streets with fast-moving cars and bikes don’t mix well with his ambling and circuitous riding style. He’s also still learning how to use the grabber proficiently. “I don’t look that graceful swerving around, but it’s for the greater good,” he said.

Danny seems like a relatively quiet guy and he’s not looking to start a bike-powered-trash-hauling revolution. But he did let on that he was partly inspired by famed author and comedian David Sedaris, who also has a habit of picking up other peoples’ trash. And like Sedaris, I couldn’t tell if he was joking when he said with a deadpan delivery, “I moved here poor and these buckets changed everything. There’s pre-picker Danny, and post-picker Danny.”

Given how many bicycle riders there are in Portland — and how much trash litters our streets — we can use all the pedaling pickers we can get.

Thanks for your work Danny!

Now, who else is going to buy a grabbing tool and join him?

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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