Homeless in Vancouver: How Rick rolls

Above you can see a photo from yesterday of the bicycle that a binner named Rick uses.

Don’t be deceived. Under all the stickers and crap is a finely tuned, carefully maintained, bottle-picking machine!

Really! I’m not kidding. Take my word about the hard-to-see parts that mean business, like the brake pads, cables, and drive train—but you can see for yourself that he’s riding on fresh knobby tires.

His bike, his way

Rick is not a novice, not where binning is concerned or bicycles; for him the two go hand in hand.

After all these years, he knows what works for him where both bikes and binning are concerned.

So if you think his bike looks a little junky, keep in mind that the reusable bags, the broom handle—everything hung, tied, and taped onto the bike—is there to serve a specific binning function and most certainly all of it was plucked out of the garbage somewhere to be repurposed to its new role.

The function of the stickers are, I think, to remind people that Rick is still a bit of a badass.

And there’s no arguing with results.

Rick collects and hauls in loads that most of us would think require a bicycle trailer.

It’s no simple matter to carry $40 or $50 worth of returnable containers on a bicycle. I know, I used to do just what Rick still does—just not exactly the same way.

When Rick brings in a load to a bottle depot, he’ll have two or three or four big black garbage bags full of containers tied to the back of the bike—that’s what the posts and broom handle are there for. He has to keep the load high, stable, and far away from the back tire.

The reusable bags on the handlebars will be full of containers also—likely just glass bottles—they need to be heavy enough to serve as counter-weights to the load on the back of the bike.

If you put too much weight on just one end of the bicycle, it will act just like a teeter-totter with one or the other wheel axles acting as a fulcrum.

So Rick’s bike may look like junk, but it works like a charm.

And I should add that so does Rick. I know his binning area and he covers more territory in a day than most binners do in three days.

Binners who will use bicycles aren’t all bicycle binners

Bottle and can pickers come and go in all shapes, sizes, and kinds of conveyances from humble foot soldiers all the way up to the greedy mechanized troops in Blazers, pickup trucks, and SUVs who swarm the Blue Box zones.

The binners who use bicycles can be divided in to two camps: those who use their bikes with care and those who use them up and throw them away. This latter group is a minority who pretty much all live in the Downtown Eastside, where, they insist, bicycles of whatever provenance can be had for $10 or $20.

Cheaper, they say, for them to buy a new bike than fix a flat.

Be that as it may. “Real” bike binners value the bicycles we have and we take the best care of them we can for as long as we can.

It’s not so much high-mindedness but it is a mindset.

Many years ago my old friend Jimmy, who I haven’t seen now for many months, finished making some sort of point about binning with the statement: “There’s no joy without a bike!”

He could have been speaking for all the bicycle binners I have known or ever will know.

It’s not that we hate shopping carts (clatter, clatter!). It’s that we just love bicycles (zoom, zoom). 

Stanley Q. Woodvine
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