For most, Burning Man has always been about building a community. It has also always been predominantly a bicycle city, prompting people to park their antisocial non-interactive cars and peddle around our fair city out in the open in a much more social format.
It’s only fitting that a community-based bicycle city have a community bike program. The Yellow Bike Program is in its 7th year and has been successful for the most part. Originally started through an anonymous private donation of about 500 bikes, the usage and embracing of the concept has been steadily improving. Like many of the other aspects of our built community, it is a gradual process that is mostly implemented through peer pressure.
When it started, the bigger challenges were to discourage those who looked at these bikes as free bikes for one’s own personal use, leading to bikes getting locked with personal locks and/or people decorating the bikes to make them unrecognizable and never to be returned. The good news is that over the seasons, these incidences have been greatly dropping in numbers largely due to massive communications campaigns and one-on-one monitoring by other participants.
This year around 500 to 600 bikes were released into the city at the start of the event, and post event, about 420 serviceable bikes were retrieved and around 50 retrieved that were beat up by the event (our event can be hard on a lot of things). There is still a percentage of bikes that are ending up being stolen and smuggled out of the city, but these percentages are improving and overall are very good compared to yellow bike programs in other cities around the world. We don’t expect that there will ever be a 100% return of the Yellow Bikes, but we do anticipate that the project will continue to improve and help to provide a community service that works to the benefit of many.