Homeless in Vancouver: Twitter users rally to buy Ivan a second secondhand bike!

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      Ivan’s second secondhand bike—purchased a week ago, with another batch of money raised by Vancouver Twitter users—is still doing just fine, thank you very much!

      This is a welcome turn of the wheel in what has been a month-long cycle of giving and taking, where Ivan’s bikes have been concerned.

      The secondhand bike that Ivan is now riding was purchased on February 20th to replace an earlier secondhand bike bought on February 7th—also with money from Vancouver Twitter users. That bike was intended to replace a bike stolen from Ivan on February 2nd, while he was sleeping rough in the Fairview neighbourhood.

      Unfortunately, the first secondhand bike that Twitter users bought for Ivan was itself stolen seven days later, on February 14th, again while Ivan was sleeping rough, this time in the Downtown Eastside!

      Fortunately for my middle-aged pal (who suffers from a bum leg) he only had to hobble around for four days, until February 18th. Then a serviceable clunker bike was found for him in the back alleys by another homeless binner.

      And that…brings us back to February 20th, when I received an email from Charlie Smith, editor of the Georgia Straight.

      Vancouver Twitter users, again led by the indefatigable Linda Lupini, executive vice president of the Provincial Health Services Authority, had raised another bike fund for Ivan. The envelope of cash, Charlie wrote, was waiting at the front desk of the newspaper’s offices on West Broadway.

      Step One: Don’t lose your head, or the money!

      Just after noon on February 20th, Ivan and I rode two blocks west, from the McDonald’s in the 1400 block of West Broadway, to the offices of the Georgia Straightin the 1600 block—he on his junker bike and me with my bike and trailer. It was a sunny Tuesday, if that helps paint the picture.

      First we went to the front desk and collected the envelope of money, which was labelled “Ivan’s bike (version 2) c/o Georgia Straight.” Inside the envelope were various denominations of bills. Donors were indicated both by sticky-notes fixed to bills and by a printed list individuals.

      There was over $470 to put toward a secondhand bicycle and a new bike lock for Ivan, plus a little something for me!

      Before we left the Georgia Straight offices I showed Ivan my old, circa 1983, painted plywood cutout of the newspaper’s mascot Mr. Wuxtry, which is still displayed in the lobby. Then I introduced him to editor Charlie Smith.

      Ivan never told me what he thought of Mr. Wuxtry but he was clearly pleased to meet and shake hands with Charlie, whom he later described as a “cool guy”.

      Leaving Charlie to put out his paper (Tuesday is the day that it “goes to bed”), we continued west—to a used bike store located in the 2200 block. But we were planning to come back to the 1600 block as soon as Ivan had his bike—to register it at the Kitislano-Fairview Community Policing Centre, conveniently located just a few doors west of the Straight offices.

      As it turned out, I came back before that.

      While Ivan barrelling ahead to the bike store, I took my time. Ivan could start looking at bikes without me—there were some photos I wanted to take along the way.

      But I only made it as far as the 1900 block before I began wondering where the envelope of money was. It had slipped my mind for a moment and I had a sudden, terrible fear that it had also slipped out of one of my pants pockets. I felt terribly unencumbered by a wad of cash.

      I confess that I panicked a bit and backtracked toward the 1600 blockeyes peeled for a fat white envelope by the curb but with visions of a looming reality where I had lost the damn thing.

      Reaching the west corner of the 1600 block, the fact popped mischievously back into my fore brain that the envelope was folded snug and safe in a zippered pocket of my MEC hoodie.

      Step two: Pick the best bike (our) money will buy

      Mike, a Ride On salesperson, helps Ivan pick out his bike.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      By the time I arrived at the 2200 block, Ivan was standing in front of the bike shop waiting for me.

      The first time Twitter users raised money for Ivan to buy a used bike he went to Sports Junkies, a consignment sporting goods store in the 100 block of West Broadway, which is almost in East Vancouver. With store leases being so much lower that far east, we had expected that bike prices would likewise be lower than anything we could find on the West Side. This had not really turned out to be the case.

      This time we were trying a West Side used bike store called Ride On, located on the edge of the Kitsilano, in the 2200 block of West Broadway. I had a past familiarity with the store. In the early 2000s I had followed “my” bike mechanic when he left a bike store in East Vancouver to join Ride On.

      Then the shop had been great for parts and service and now their website explained how they refurbish donated bikes—giving away hundreds each year to community groups, while selling others at affordable prices.

      But as I locked up my bike and trailer to a sidewalk bike rack Ivan explained that all the bikes on display were very, very expensive.

      He was right, Every bike on display in front of the store had a price tag with three zeroes in front of the decimal point but I wasn’t concerned.

      The bikes we could afford would, I remembered, be in a gated enclosure on the west side of the store. There we found between 20 and 30 older mountain bikes from the 1990s and early 2000s; none as up-to-date as the Norco Bigfoot Ivan had bought at Sports Junkies and certainly none with disc brakes. But every bike appeared to be mechanically refurbished like new.

      Ivan and I both settled on the same bike: a solid 1997 Trek 830 Mountain Track XC, with a 20-inch, grey cromalloy frame, yellow RST front suspension, and side-pull brakes, front and back.

      It was an old bike but a good one and every mechanical and moving partcables, brake pads, shifters, drive train and tires, were as good as new. Even the saddle was beyond complaint. And the whole thing was priced within our budget: $249.00.

      Step three: And a lock—don’t forget a good lock!

      Ivan holding the open Abus Bordo 6000 lock, with an inset of it folded up on the bike frame.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Unlike the February 7th purchase at Sports Junkies, where only $35-worth of U-lock was purchased to protect $419-worth of bike, the lesser cost of the Trek at Ride On left Ivan room to buy a better quality lock.

      Out of the locks available, Ivan and I chose an Abus Bordo 6000 flat lock costing $159.99.

      The flat lock design is an Abus innovation, intended to be an easy-to-carry bike lock with chain-like flexibility and reach, plus real theft deterrence.

      The Bordo 6000 is made up of six 5mm-thick, hardened steel bars, hinged together with rivets and joined to an integral cylinder lock. The linked bars can encompass 90cmmore area than all but the longest-shackled U-locks. This means that the Bordo 6000 should be able to lock one wheel and a frame tube to a bike rack or a sign pole.

      For storage, the Bordo 6000’s flat bar segments fold together, one on top of the other and snap into a holder that takes up very little space on a bike frame.

      Personally, I would have preferred the Bordo Big 6000, which has two more bars (for a total of eight) and a reach of 120cm, allowing it potentially to lock both wheels and bike frame to a pole. But Ride On did not have this model in stock and it generally costs at least $200.

      In trading security for convenience Bordo flat locks sacrifice less of the former and get more of the latter than any other lock design I am aware of but they can only be considered moderate theft deterrents. Strength-wise, they are vulnerable to portable angle grinders and longer-armed bolt cutters.

      However, the Bordo’s convenience adds to its deterrent value. In Ivan’s case, it means that he will use it.

      Step four: Drive a hard bargain before riding away

      Donor notes that accompanied the money we used to pay for the bike and lock, with the Ride On receipt showing how much we paid.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      With taxes in, the total cost of the bike and the bike lock came to only $429.44 (leaving Ivan with $40-plus jingling in his pocket).

      But being the sharp homeless people that we are, we still haggled, with the result that Mike the salesperson threw in a free bike bell!

      After the purchase was completed, two notable things happened. Ivan’s secondhand mountain bike was hoisted up onto a repair stand for one last check of its mechanical integrity.

      And the second thing of note was the receipt, which listed not only the make and model of the bike but also its unique serial number, copied from the underside of the crank. It should be the law across British Columbia that every bike store does this for every bike sale!

      Step five: Go to the policebefore the bike is stolen!

      Josh of the Kits-Fairview CPC takes one last photo of Ivan and his new/old Trek to complete the online bike registration with Project 529.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Now that Ivan had his bike it was time to head back to the 1600 block and register it with the Vancouver police at the Kitsilano-Fairview Community Policing Centre (CPC).

      Since 2015, the Vancouver police (VPD) have been encouraging all bicycle owners in Vancouver to register their bikes for free in the online 529 Garage bike registry, as part of the VPD’s “Log It or Lose It” campaign.

      The registration process takes only about five minutes and involves the police photographing the bike and recording its physical description, make, model, and serial number. It can be done without appointment at any one of eight neighbourhood Community Policing Centres: ChinatownCollingwoodGrandview WoodlandGranville Downtown SouthHastings SunriseKitsilano FairviewSouth Vancouver, and West End Coal Harbour.

      The Kitsilano Fairview CPC, for example, is located in the basement of 1687 West Broadway. Ivan simply carried his bike down a short flight of stairs into the lobby of the small CPC office.

      While Ivan and I watched and perused a coffee table full of anti-theft information, Josh and Lia, two neighbourhood community policing volunteers, went about recording, registering, and photographing Ivan’s Trek 830.

      Sticker shock! Ivan’s Trek tells one and all that it is registered with 529 Garage.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      For the last photo of the bike, Josh asked Ivan to be in the shot.

      Then the registration process was complete and Ivan was given a large, adhesive, all-weather “529 Garage” sticker. This was to be placed prominently on the frame of his bikeso that all concerned (would-be thieves and police alike) would know by looking at it that it was registered.

      Personally, I would like to see the day when the all-weather “529 Garage” bike sticker can be custom-printed as part of the registration, in order to include a QR code linking directly to the bike’s online record. Otherwise, I’d like to see a bike registration program like this become mandatory across Canada, if not North America.

      As it is, the 529 Garage bike registration and recovery program is being promoted by 26 police departments across B.C. Reportedly, as of October 2017, some 100,000 bicycles had been registered provincewidewith nearly 22,000 in Vancouver alone. The Vancouver police credit the program with reducing bike theft by 30 percent.

      Readers may be interested to know that the entire business of selecting, buying, and registering Ivan’s new secondhand bike covered an area of only seven city blocks and took perhaps an hour and a half.

      This is to say that it took about twice as long to write about the deed as it did to actually do it! 

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.

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