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City Bicycle Distribution Program to be Considered at City Council Jan 14th
The Santa Cruz City Council will consider whether or not to reinstate the long-standing program of distributing unclaimed bicycles to youth in need. From 1996-2012 hundreds of bicycles were distributed to youth through various nonprofits. Two years ago the program was suspended with no notification or explanation, with bikes distributed for a time through a for-profit business, in violation of the municipal code. Some bikes were sold during that period which ordinarily would go to youth, also in violation of code. In August 2013 the City ended distributions entirely and began auctioning bikes off. It's time to put politics aside and start getting these bikes back in the hands of low-income youth.
Next Tuesday, January 14th the Santa Cruz City Council will decide whether or not to reinstate the long-standing program of distributing unclaimed bicycles to youth in need. Please let the Council Members know you think this is a valuable program! You can let them know in person at the meeting, or email them at citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com. Currently we don't know if this item will be discussed at the 3pm afternoon or 7pm evening session, but we'll post details as they are available.
Every year the City ends up with hundreds of bikes which are not claimed and must be dealt with somehow. Because the bikes are generally of moderate to low quality and many are in disrepair, they offer little cash value to the City through auctioning. Therefore in 1996 the City began distributing them to youth in need, turning these old bikes into a valuable community resource. The distributions were open to any qualified nonprofit or government agency, and got out many hundreds of bikes to youth who otherwise might not have had the opportunity to own a bicycle.
Although a valuable program, participation varied over the years and sometimes the administration felt like a drain to the SCPD, which in 2008 stopped distributions and began sending bikes instead to the landfill. At that point the nonprofit repair shop the Bike Church approached the City, offering to handle most of the administration of the program. For the next four years, the Bike Church held 16 distributions, getting out 415 bikes through a variety of nonprofits, while salvaging tons of usable material from the scraps that no one else was able to make use of.
In early 2012, the City ended this important program without any notification to the Bike Church or other participating groups. Bikes were delivered instead to a for-profit business that sold many bikes which previously would have gone free to youth, and which did not invite the former nonprofit participants to take any of the bicycles. The five groups that had matched up the most bikes to youth prior to this change—Barrios Unidos, Green Ways to School, Project Bike Trip, Watsonville Bike Shack, and Western Service Workers Association—all wrote letters to the City praising the former program and the Bike Church's management of it, and asking that it be reinstated. However no changes were made at that time.
The following summer in August 2013, acknowledging that the municipal code does not allow distributions through a for-profit business, the City suspended distributions entirely. City Manager Bernal stated at that time the intention to invite proposals from nonprofits to partner with the City in renewing the program. However due to behind-the-scenes pressure by some Council Members this plan was never moved forward, with bikes now being auctioned off for as far as we know the first time since 1996.
Fortunately, the City Council will have the opportunity to vote on this matter next week, and we hope they will listen to the overwhelming community support for giving the bikes to youth instead of auctioning them off.
Lastly, we wanted to let you know we have a discussion about this issue on the Civinomics site, which tries to foster constructive dialogues and allows you to vote on things like this:
After 2 years of delays and malfeasance, the City has delayed the issue yet again, and will not as promised consider the issue on Jan 14th. However we are still calling for supporters to come to the City Council's "oral communications" period around 4:30pm. Oral communications means you can make a comment to the Council about items not on the agenda. It is also helpful to write in letters to council.