After my homeless friend Ivan Saunderson had his bike stolen on the night of February 2-3 while sleeping in a Fairview parkade, Vancouver Twitter users quickly raised over $500, which he used to buy another bike.
That new bike, I am sorry to report, was stolen on the the night of February 14-15—again while Ivan was sleeping rough, this time in the Downtown Eastside.
Homeless guy’s one week fling with Bigfoot
For a week, Ivan greatly enjoyed his new bike—a beefy, Norco Bigfoot with front shocks and big, gleaming disc brakes. He took it sightseeing up to UBC and out to Richmond; he used it to make money binning for returnable beverage containers in the alleys of Fairview and and he rode it downtown to spend some of his earnings on the nutritious $2 dinners served 365 days a year at the Evelyne Saller Centre.
Along the way he carefully and neatly spray-painted the grey frame of the bike a more personally-appealing matte black.
You have to admit that for a guy with a bum leg (a high school high-jumping injury, he tells me), he sure can get around—if he has a bicycle.
Ivan was busy riding the Norco here, there, and everywhere for seven days—ready to protect it with his life, he said—then he rested.
Ivan picks the wrong time and place to let down his guard
Unfortunately, as he explained to me on the evening of February 15, after he walked into the McDonald’s in the 1400 block of West Broadway—carrying his length of aircraft cable, sleeping bag, and bike helmet but conspicuously without his bike—he chose to rest at a spot near the intersection of Keeefer Street and Main Street, which is inside the southwest corner of the Downtown Eastside, the so-called poorest postal code in Canada.
And as Ivan rested, he left his oh-so-desirable Norco Bigfoot resting insecurely against a wall behind him.
While he U-locked the back wheel to the frame he neglected to use his length of aircraft cable together with the U-lock to secure the bike onto anything. This allowed a thief to easily wrest the freestanding bicycle up and out from behind Ivan (who is obviously a very sound sleeper).
When Ivan did wake up Wednesday morning and realized that he had again been robbed of a bike in his sleep, he felt as awful as any of us would. He told me that he spent several hours combing the streets and alleys of the Downtown Eastside, as best he could, looking for evidence of the distinctive mountain bike.
But Ivan pessimistically assumed that the thief had hotfooted the bike back to one of the area’s hundreds of low-income, single-room-occupancy suites, where they could break the U-lock at their leisure.
Ivan was also too pessimistic to bother going to the police.
After he showed up at McDonald’s on the evening of February 15 and after I had gotten all the details from him, I immediately called the non-emergency number of the Vancouver Police Department and reported the theft. I could only do this in a meaningful way because I had taken the time on February 7 to photograph the serial number that was deeply embossed on the underside of the Norco Bigfoot’s crank.
Without a stolen bike’s unique serial number, police can do nothing. With the serial number, the bike can at least be listed as stolen in the Canada-wide Canadian Police information Centre (CPIC) database. This means that the bike can be identified by its serial number as stolen and returned to its rightful owner if it is recovered by police anywhere in the country.
As of today, though, Ivan is again without a bicycle. Hopefully he will not be without one for long.
On February 7, amid efforts to raise the cash that ultimately bought Ivan the Norco Bigfoot, there were two offers of old bikes for Ivan. I have been making inquiries and will find out next week if one of the old bikes is still available. In the meantime I will also follow up regarding the second offer.