Karen's Tips for Bike Drives

News released on: 
May 23rd, 2005

Mother and son team wanted to do a community project that had a peace theme. Also, recycling anything, especially something as useful as a bicycle appealed to us. Bicycles are being taken to the curb on trash day and it’s frustrating for us to see. We found Bikes Not Bombs on the internet by doing a search on something like “Boston area”, and “peace”. It was a pleasant surprise. Our bike drive was done over two days, Saturday morning, and Sunday afternoon. I think one full day would be better, because we had to move the first day’s bicycles (50) off-site from the high school parking lot. It makes for a lot more work, which Collin performed quickly and without incident.

  • Advertise! Here are some ideas: Posters at schools in town/city, flyers on the high school students cars parked at the school, local newspapers (don’t forget the free ones you get in the mailbox), your town/city’s website or Calendar of Events, your school’s website, painted signs around the town/city (our biggest draw was a 4 x 5 piece of plywood painted sign planted on the Common in the center of town), posters at the library, community center, convenience stores, even printed t-shirts. Schedule it so that people can drop off their unsold bicycles after their Yard Sales are over (after 2:00). We got around 8 more bikes using that tactic. People arrived late both days, as much as 15 minutes after we were supposed to end the day, we weren’t in any hurry and they thanked us for staying late. How weird is that?
  • Have the bike drive in a spot that is easy to find and easy to get to, not a private residence. When providing information about the drive, be sure to offer information about how easy it is to get to the drive: ‘Near the Post Office, Next to the softball field, or Across the street from the library’. You get the idea.
  • Have restrooms around that are public, or that the owner has given you permission to use BEFORE the day you show up for the bike drive.
  • Wear a hat and layers of clothes, as the day goes on it might get hotter or the clouds might block out the warmth of the sun. If it’s overcast bring a raincoat just in case. More importantly don’t forget the sunscreen.
  • Pack something to drink so you don’t dehydrate. Snacks are a good idea, too.
  • Setting up: Once you get there clean the area of trash and debris. That will help you look official. A box that won’t blow away would make a nice trash receptacle. You’ll need a table and cooler. The minivan had removable seats, we used them instead of chairs. Pick up after yourself at the end of the drive.
  • Don’t be playing catch, throwing Frisbees, chasing each other around, or riding the donated bicycles. Look professional. Approach the car with a clear greeting. “Hi, did you have any trouble finding us?”, “How did you hear about us?”, “Do you want to know more about Bikes Not Bombs?” You’ll see a smile spread across their face.
  • Not many people wanted help removing the bicycles out of their cars, but we were right next to them in case they needed a hand to untwist a handlebar stuck on a seatbelt (etc). Be right there to offer help or catch something falling. Nobody wants to scratch their car, so help them.
  • We never rejected any donated bicycle; we didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We let BNB decide which bicycle they wanted and which ones they didn’t. Steve was telling us he makes sure the unusable bicycles are recycled, the perfect solution.
  • Thank them, Thank Them, THANK THEM! They just dug their bicycle out of the cellar, garage, out from under the porch or even from the attic, put it in their car and drove to the bicycle drive to do a kind act. That deserves a few “thank you’s”. (They’re free, spread them around liberally.) If there are wide-eyed children in the car, thank them “for doing a good deed”, they’ll squirm with delight. Their parents seemed to appreciate it. They probably talked about it on the way over. Spread the wonder around.
  • Keep the bicycles in an organized fashion. Nobody should be tripping over the bicycles.
  • Loud music might be a little overwhelming for the people pulling up. We decided to listen to a book on tape from the car’s player. When a car pulled up, we turned it off. We listen to an American classic. Maybe we’ll be able to use a quote or character from the book in the essay part of the SAT exam. Now that we’ve “read” it one can hope.

OK, here’s something for any high school student out there that is looking to do community service. This fits the bill! Also, you can put this on your “resume”. Talk to your guidance counselor and see if you can get this to happen in your community. It’s good for you, your community will have less tonnage going to a landfill and you are impacting a life/lives in a very positive way.

Flattening a bike

What we learned:

A few donators asked for a tax receipt. You’ll need to get that set-up in advance with Bikes Not Bombs. We were unprepared for that, no paperwork. Everyone seemed OK about us not having it. They were glad to put the bicycles somewhere other than the trash. They THANKED us repeatedly.
(Note from BNB: we now make receipts a regular part of all bike drives)

We should have packed some basic tools. Some bicycles arrived with their wheels separated from the bicycle or their seat unattached. We could have fixed that while we waited.

If we had had a pedal wrench (is that what it’s called?) and hex tools (?) and some training over the phone, we could have prepared the bicycles for shipping. I believe Steve called it, “Flattening the bikes”. We spent about 4.5 hours doing that AFTER the drive was over. We could have been doing that DURING the drive and simply packed the truck when Steve arrived.
(Note from BNB: we'll talk to you about tools and "flattening the bikes" before the drive!)

We felt awkward asking for donations, so we left a marked plastic (NOT glass) jar on a small table at the end of the row of bicycles. One of us had our eyes on the jar at all times. It should have been put in a more obvious spot. We got about $85 in donations and exactly 100 bicycles. What a surprise!

Steve was great, inspiring, hard working and a pure asset to Bikes Not Bombs. We heard from him small hints about holding another drive in a year. “And next year you could bring in another 100 bicycles...” He told us some stories of people who have received bicycles from Bikes Not Bombs and thanks to him we knew we really could change one person’s life in another corner of the world for the better. Each of us could make a difference. What a feeling! We were spent-exhausted, and so proud our faces hurt from smiling so hard. My normally quiet son complimented me on the sign I made and we flashed a smile to each other. All of it was a wonderful experience. All I can say is…See you next year!