Sunday, January 19, 2020

Riding in the sunshine, profitable non-profits, and a Refugee Bike UPDATE

It was nice again today, sunny, though a bit colder than yesterday. So I mdea a point of riding the BStone up to the CCC for Salvage Sunday, after which I'd grab some groceries and ride home.

On the way to the CCC, I turned my rear thumb shifter and felt it give way. The metal clamp of my 35-year-old thumbshifter had cracked, and only the tension of the screw was holding the shifter to the handle bar. I was going to have to buy a replacement at the CCC.

When I arrived, the back pad was empty. Carl, the longest-serving employee (he came on board four or five years after I left), told me that management had decided that Salvage Sunday wasn't profitable enough so they were cutting it back and raising the cost of salvaged bits (from $0.50 to $1.00 a pound). Bike frames were now $10 each and wheels were generally being held back unless they were totally trashed.

They began this month holding Salvage Sunday only once a month, and anything they didn't deem salvageable by the regulars would be locked up and sold to scrappers for the metal.
Carl told me they initially wanted to get ride of Salvage Sundays altogether -- "it costs $10,000 a year to hold them," he explained -- and the whole shop is continually streamlining their model to make more money to support the programs they want to keep going.

The CAC (Create-A-Commuter) Program had been shelved several years ago, citing rising costs and shrinking availability of decent older mountain bikes as more used bikes stayed longer with their owners, or were sold on the internet. If someone who was home;ess needed a bike, they could work in the shop for a few hours to earn one; but those cases were screened and kept to limited numbers, based on the decreasing number of bikes available to give away.

Nearly everything at the CCC now is poured into youth programs in the schools, Bike Camp in the summer (and that's not a free camp, it costs a fair amount of money to send your kid there for a week) and Spanish-language programs based in subsidized Latino community centers. As a result of that growth, and also because of rising wages and inflation in general, the bikes for sale at the CCC are now comparable with refurbished used bikes sold almost anywhere else in town. New bikes also grace the CCC's showroom floor now, another attempt to make up for the shortage of quality used bikes which simply aren't being donated in great numbers anymore.

In short, the CCC isn't anywhere close to resembling the scrappy non-profit that Brian Lacy and Ira Grishaver were running on a shoestring when I started volunteering there in the early 1990s. And while I understand the growth is the rule of the day in capitalism, even for non-profits, the fact is that non-profits have to be run like for-profit businesses in order to survive in the long run.

I found a right-handed thumb shifter that I thought I could make work for now; and sat in the late afternoon sunshine swapping shifters on my bike. Then I rode gingerly to the grocery store, got my stuff, and rode gingerly home, being careful not to shift much. I suspect that if I pull the thumb shifter from the old pod and swap it onto the new pod and clamp it should work just fine. I'll try that tomorrow.

It's also time for me to renew my request for help with my Refugee Bike Project. I am entering my fifth year on this humble little project, and while the number of new arrivals via Catholic Charities has fallen, there are still people coming to Portland from all over the world -- largely from Middle Eastern and African countries where poverty and war have forced them out. After months or years ;angushing in refugee camps, a trickle of people are allowed to come to the United States on asylum, and they have to begin again.

Having a bicycle makes it a lot easier to get around in Portland. Combined with a bus pass, it's remarkably easy -- and far cheaper than owning and maintaining a car. So I collect adult-sized bicycles, fix them up, replace whatever needs replacing, and send them to Catholic Charities, who distributes them to the newest Portlanders.

I need more bikes.
I also really, really need more U-locks with keys (combination locks are far easier to break and they wear out much faster, so I can't really use them.), headlights, rear racks and small bags (to hold locks and patch kits).
If you live in Portland and want to help, please reply here at this blog post and we'll make arrangements. Thanks so much, and happy riding!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I have a bunch of different styles of handlebars (mostly drop bars, though) that I would happily donate if you can use them, maybe a rack or two, and assorted other parts I would happily clear out of my garage and basement.

No appropriate bikes, but a few wheels, a brake set or two, etc., etc.

Let me know what you might be interested in and how to hand stuff off.

I am now a CCC volunteer, one of a declining number, it seems.

Doug Couch