The wheels of government grind plenty slow. But sometimes, they do move. And as a result, more disadvantaged Fort Worth kids will soon have some wheels of their own.
Last year, a north Fort Worth dad, Daniel Guido, discovered that discarded bikes were piling up at a city-operated waste drop-off station. Guido runs a bike “gang” in his neighborhood, a group of families and volunteers who fix and maintain bikes, give rebuilt bikes away and host community rides in an effort to get children out of the house and neighbors better acquainted.
The thrown-out bikes struck him as an opportunity for parts and fixer-uppers that could help spread the gospel of fresh air and neighborhood solidarity. But for various reasons — legal liability, a contract to sell the bikes for auction and a conflict with state law — city officials said he couldn’t have them.
After Star-Telegram videographer Yffy Yossifor and I told the story, Mayor Betsy Price and other city leaders pledged to see what they could do. Price, a bike enthusiast herself, even came to the Park Glen neighborhood for a ride.
On Tuesday, City Council member Cary Moon will shepherd through a measure to give the bikes and parts to qualified charitable groups that pledge to use them for donations. Guido’s group has already taken the steps to be eligible.
“The cool thing is, this is not just us,” Guido said. “We got to do a pilot program. But the brilliance of the thing is that anybody who’s a nonprofit can give bikes away to Fort Worth residents.”
Moon said he expects little or no opposition to his measure.
“I don’t know why anybody who’s ridden a bicycle wouldn’t vote for this,” he said.
The resolution would authorize a new program by which a qualified nonprofit group can obtain the bikes and parts on a first-come, first-serve basis. They’ll have to sign a liability waiver, pledge not to sell what they get, and submit periodic reports on their use of the inventory. City officials are satisfied that legal issues have been addressed, Moon said.
The city was selling the bikes for scrap, getting about $9,000 per year, Moon said. Guido estimates, based on the quantity of discarded bikes he’s seen and the shape they were in, that the result will be at least 700 usable bikes a year for underprivileged Fort Worth residents. Even those that can’t be salvaged as whole bikes will provide parts to fix others and make repairs for riders.
For Guido, the idea is not just to get children outside, though that’s important. He sees it as a way to expand community.
He envisions “more gangs, more families riding, more getting to know your neighbor and the uncharted world of ripple effects,” he said. ”Neighboring is important to me. It’s based on the golden rule and love thy neighbor. It doesn’t have to be religious … though in my family’s case it is.”
Moon said that Guido’s idea fits another mission, too: making government more efficient.
“He has a servant’s heart,” Moon said of his constituent. “We’re looking forward to getting more repaired bicycles in the hands of kids who need them.”
But it’s not always easy to, as Guido said, turn no into yes, especially if lawyers are raising liability issues.
“You and your readers helped turn this into a yes,” he told me Friday. “We pushed the city to think bigger and better.”
Guido and other volunteers will be in the City Council chamber Tuesday, wearing branded white T-shirts thanks to a donor, to witness the vote on the new program. Meanwhile, his own bike gang is still trying to work out how to safely gather during the pandemic, so community rides have been on hold.
He’s thinking about how to spread his idea beyond Fort Worth. He called it “scalable,” noting that several other bike gangs formed based upon his neighborhood’s model.
“Why couldn’t Denver do it, why couldn’t Chicago, why couldn’t our sisters in Dallas do it,” he said.
And at home, he’s already looking toward a new model to create more riders and serve their needs. Guido envisions setting up a network of repair and distribution sites, set up on parking lots around town, where rebuilt bikes could be available and volunteer mechanics could hold hours to fix tires and chains or provide donated helmets.
Don’t bet against someone who prompted a change in city policy in less than a year.
“Any barrier we think of, we try to remove it,” Guido said.