Bikes are Black Rock City’s main mode of transportation, with volunteer groups such as the Bike Guild and the Black Label Bike Club supporting the bicycle metropolis in numerous ways. The Bike Guild teaches participants how to maintain bikes, and in 2003 it began matching found bikes with happy riders. In 2006, the Reno-based Black Label Bike Club took over lost and found duties and also created the pilot Yellow Bike program.
The Bike Guild recruited more volunteers this year, while the Burning Man Project again stepped-up efforts to educate participants about the personal responsibility of bike maintenance. The result was a smooth operation for the Guild in 2006, with far fewer participants expecting someone else to repair their bikes for them.
Despite increased efforts to teach participants about the importance of using bike locks, theft continued to be a problem. 91 participants reported stolen or missing bikes post-event (undoubtedly more went unreported) — and not one of these people had locked his or her bike. Only eight were reunited with their bikes from the pile of approximately 600 bikes sadly left as MOOP.
Large numbers of unlocked bikes and low recovery rates for stolen bikes could lead to a policy change in the future, whereby a bicycle will not be considered stolen unless it was locked and the lock has been cut or picked. This would give more incentive to participants to lock their bikes, reducing theft and relieving pressure on the volunteers who deal with lost and found bicycles at the end of the event.
While the population of Black Rock City increased in 2006, the number of leftover bikes dropped — from 800+ last year to less than 600 this year. We’re pleased that fewer people are leaving their bikes for others to deal with. Some of the leftover bicycles were donated to the Kiwanis Club of Reno. The rest will be tuned up and painted by the Black Label Bike Club to be used as Yellow Bikes in 2007.
Yellow Bikes were introduced on the playa this year for the first time. The idea behind the program (like those in Amsterdam and other progressive municipalities) is that designated bikes are shared within the community and available for all to enjoy. We knew that the proposal would bring fresh challenges, but we decided to it a try.
The first challenge was to set reasonable expectations on use of Yellow Bikes. To ensure that demand would not outstrip supply, we announced the program in the Black Rock Gazette-ette on the first day of the event. This allowed us to monitor the pilot program as an experiment for those who had not planned on bringing a bike anyway. The front-page article in the Gate Edition contained a list of usage guidelines, such as: Only use a Yellow Bike if you don’t have access to another bike; only use it for a short period of time; and no “cruising.”
The word is out, and next year there will be more Yellow Bikes for participants to share. While it won’t support 40,000 participants, the program is intended to supplement the thriving bike culture that already exists in Black Rock City.