YBP Moves With Heavy Load, Light Heart

Yellow Bike Project moves two semi-trailer trucks' worth of stuff – minus the trucks, of course

Russell Pickavance carries a load of wheels.
Russell Pickavance carries a load of wheels. (Photo by Daniel Mottola)

Only Austin's Yellow Bike Project could move the entire contents of a 30,000-square-foot warehouse entirely by pedal power. Last Saturday, with the help of around 75 volunteers and a spectacle of both everyday cycles and radical heavy-duty bikes, YBP made the 2.5-mile trek to its new shop, a former Austin Energy substation at the corner of 12th and Webberville Road. For the last five years, YBP has been headquartered at a city-owned warehouse at 51st Street near Berkman, but with the building slated for demolition this summer as part of the Mueller redevelopment, it was time to say goodbye.

The move was a sight to behold, with dual-rear-wheeled tricycles, rough-fashioned trailers, and front-loader cargo bikes piled high with what amounted to two semitrailers' worth of gear. Overall, there was an impressive outpouring of volunteer heave-ho, despite the day's sweltering temperature. With his red beard unmistakable in the crowd, former City Council candidate and East Austin resident Allen Demling could be seen loading a box of handlebars onto a repurposed kid-hauling trailer. "What's happening here is really inspiring. The cycling community is coming together to make Austin a better place," he said. "I saw it during my council race, and this is yet another example."

Nancy Tolbert enjoys the festivities.
Nancy Tolbert enjoys the festivities. (Photo by Daniel Mottola)

"This is definitely going to be the best summer I've ever had," said longtime YBP volunteer Pete Wall as he proudly gazed upon the bustling crowd Saturday morning. In the 11 years Wall has been part of the collective, its role has grown significantly. YBP started out rehabilitating bikes, painting them yellow, and releasing them for free all over town. The organization has since evolved into a unified voice for transportation cycling and a steward of free bicycle-repair education, with volunteers regularly mentoring at afterschool programs around the city, as well. "So many people come in [to the shop] to work on their own bikes, I get the feeling sometimes that it's just a small group of volunteers giving and giving and giving," Wall said. "On a day like today, that feeling really turns around."

Eastside native Nancy Tolbert and her grandkids Jonikqua and Johnathan happened to visit YBP for the first time Saturday amid the moving bustle. After regularly driving past the yellow bike chained near the warehouse's entrance on her daily commute, Tolbert said she looked up the organization online and decided to stop by in search of a tandem bike to ride with her handicapped grandson. Tolbert grew increasingly animated and joyous as veteran volunteer Jennifer Schaffer explained YBP's mission. She also learned that the new headquarters would be about a block from her home. "Isn't life beautiful how it twists and turns? I have foster kids, and I teach them to give back to the community, so now I can walk them over to help work on bikes," Tolbert said. "I'm gonna get myself a bike, too, and get my health back in shape. I'm getting old, but you know, age is only a number."

Yellow Bike recently celebrated birthday No. 11 and is still seeking donations and assistance from anyone who can help out with constructing the new headquarters. For more info, see www.austinyellowbike.org.

See a short video by Michael Lucas and a photo gallery from YBP's pedal-powered move.

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Yellow Bike Project, Allen Demling, Austin Energy

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