Saving the Spins!
I wanted to save two…
I wound up saving 80.
Author’s note: We wound up saving 550+ in total; about 90% of the entire fleet.
I’ve often said that the Bike Share Museum started when Bike305 gave us our first ofo. But one bicycle is just that – one bicycle. It was only after Spin’s No. 7723417 showed up near a friend’s house – off the network and in rough shape – that I was inspired to do something more than save a bike or two for history.
Less than a year later, the story has come full circle.
The discovery of 7723417 led me to do some investigating, which turned up part of their fleet stored outside at their warehouse in the commercial district of Allapattah. These comprised the bicycles which made up the Coral Gables and Miami Springs bike share programs (the Gables program is now all scooter).
Obviously, I wanted to preserve an example for the Bike Share Museum, but I was also concerned about the fate of the rest. Dockless bicycles are admirably practical, durable, and make for excellent errand bicycles. They’re ideal for people seeking reliable transportation who aren’t concerned that their bike isn’t the latest in weight weenieism. If these bikes were to be retired, I wanted to get them to people whose lives would be bettered by having one.
I’d also seen Spin’s article about their donation of their former UWSP fleet to learning centers and emergency responders in Nicaragua. This gave me hope, as did the blog’s headline:” “Bike Graveyards? No thanks.” By comparison, most dockless bike companies have left a legacy of retiring their bicycles to the nearest scrap center, with no thought to the local community. This article indicated that the people behind Spin were more charitable and thoughtful than that.
With this in mind, I reached out to Spin earlier this year with fingers crossed, making myself fairly infamous with frequent emails. Nevertheless, persistence paid off: A few months later, I found a really nice email in my inbox, from Spin’s East Coast Community Partnerships Manager, Shannon Dulaney.
Put simply, Spin was interested in donating the bikes!
I was also introduced to Rafael Prado of the local operations team as the project gained steam. That’s when I learned that the bikes I had seen were only part of the fleet. Spin didn’t have a fleet of roughly 100 – they had 500 in a warehouse I did not know about. I was invited to have a look, with a cautionary note that the San Diego operations team had also expressed great interest in this fleet and would probably get it. Apparently, demand for analog (without e-assist) bike share on the UC San Diego campus is growing.
In a country where the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) have reported that dockless bicycle rental numbers are impossibly low in comparison with docked bicycle share and scooters, this popularity is a breath of good news.
Nevertheless, I could not refuse the invitation to see 500 bike share bikes in a single room, even though they probably would not be part of the donation.
It was worth it.
A combination of used and brand-new second and third generation Spin bicycles lined the room twice over. Some bore battle scars of abuse from the public – usually front baskets bent downwards from people trying to sit in them – but I was amazed to see how well the bikes had held up. While not every bike in the room was ready to go as-is, barely five bicycles in the entire room had been abused enough to wind up in the “permanently wrecked” pile.
Ultimately, the 500 did make their way to California, but I was given the opportunity to pick out the best second and third generation examples from the lot for the Museum on the day of loading. Thanks to this generosity, Spin 2333664 and 9602377 are now preserved as part of the Bike Share Museum collection.
EDIT: Believe it or not, Spin only sent 200 bikes to California – shortly after this article was written, the remaining bikes were donated to us too! More on that soon.
But the story doesn’t end there. Remember the Allapattah bikes behind the fence? A tense week or two went by…and then an email came in from Rafael:
All 80 of them.
Now it was time to set the wheels – pun not intended – in motion. You see, bicycles aren’t just part of my hobby time, fate has somehow plopped me into a bike-related job: I work at the University of Miami BikeSafe Program. I knew the program itself could benefit from some of the bikes, and I also knew we had the connections to arrange good homes for the remaining Allapattah 80.
After going through some logistics with the staff, a few of the bicycles were assigned to the BikeSafe program, while connections were found to transport the remainder to the Bahamas to provide disaster relief aid. Volunteers from our staff removed the GPS locks in the morning and by the early afternoon, 42 bicycles were ready to go. I was able to get eight more serviced the next day, bringing the number of Bahamas bicycles to a nice, round 50.
So far, only ten bikes remain that need extensive work, and I plan to sort them out once the Bahamas bikes are on their way, so the story is still unfolding.
Speaking of the story still unfolding, remember Spin 7723417, the bike that started it all?
Yep, I found it (of course I did). The rear brake cable was jammed, and the kickstand still bent, but it was complete. So I did what every over-sentimental bike nut would do: I dragged it into my office.
Now, you’re probably asking why on earth I need two Gen 2 Spins. Well, office commuter, for one (N + 1 = N, you know!), but I also happen to think the Gen 2 is one of the best analog dockless bicycles I’ve ever ridden – let down only by its tires. So what happens if you do a bit of hot-rodding?
I plan to find out. Stay tuned.
could you send one up to london? ?
You might want to look for an ofo in the UK; some of the unused ofos on that side of the pond have made it to bike shops where they’re regularly sold. Check with Twitter users @trainfair1, @simonnotts, and @davidsonIGD. All three have purchased ofos at UK bike shops (in Birmingham and Solihull, if I am not mistaken).
Kurt, this is an amazing story and you are to be commended for shipping 50 of these Spins to be used in hurricane relief in the Bahamas! Well done and a first class story. I’d nominate you for Time’s person of the year, but someone else grabbed all the headlines. This is real-life in action making a difference in other people’s lives.
You’re too kind, Bob – though a part of me wishes some of the bikes could have been used to forward local advocacy in low-income neighborhoods too – but reform has to come to our Department of Public Works first before we ever see protected bike lanes.
But I will say that Time nailed it this year though! Kudos to Greta.