Cycle Killer

Why is the city putting the brakes on the Derailer Bike Collective?

Michael Steves, a Derailer volunteer, thinks the city could -- and should -- do more to encourage urban cycling. "There's so little support, especially in Denver, for biking," says the nineteen-year-old. "This town is not a bike-friendly place. Bikes and bike culture are definitely a statement, at least for me. And so choosing a form of transportation that's not dependent on fossil fuels is definitely a lifestyle, and supporting that is important. To ride in Denver is definitely a risk."

Roy Guerreo is wearing an orange shirt, maroon sweatpants and sneakers. He first came to the bike shop almost three years ago, when he lived in the neighborhood. But he lost his job as a maintenance man, and then he lost his house. Now the 46-year-old homeless man sleeps at the Samaritan House during the week, and he stays with family on the weekends.

The wheels keep turning: Sarah Graves helps a 
young cyclist fix his bike.
Anthony Camera
The wheels keep turning: Sarah Graves helps a young cyclist fix his bike.
What goes round comes round: Sarah Bardwell 
founded the Derailer Bike Collective.
photos by Anthony Camera
What goes round comes round: Sarah Bardwell founded the Derailer Bike Collective.

When things got bad, his friend gave him a black Diamond Back mountain bike so he could get around. Today it's his main mode of transport. "At least until I can get a job," he says, then shrugs. "But if my bike breaks down and the shop is not here -- I don't have no money, so I'm like whssshew." As he says this, he waves his arms past his head like he's being blown away by a large wind. "So it's really helpful. These people really help us."

He recognizes other people at the shop who stay at the shelter, too.

"Him," he says, pointing to a black guy putting a new tire on a bike. "I've seen him there."

Guerreo nods toward other men who are homeless, too, but he doesn't know where they stay. At the Samaritan House, Derailer's phone number and address are posted.

After he fixes his bike, Guerreo likes to help out around the shop, organizing parts and cleaning up trash. Afterward, he stands off to the side and adjusts the plastic bags stuffed with clothes that are tied to his handlebars. If Derailer is forced to close, Guerreo is worried about what he'll do if something on his bike breaks. But he's not worried about flat tires.

"My tires are heavy-duty," he says proudly. "I haven't had a flat in over a year."

For Liman, the best part of Derailer is its educational outreach. "The next time they come back into the shop, they can do it themselves," she says. "Or they can bring someone else with them, to teach that person how to fix their bikes. Then they don't need us anymore. They just need the doors to be open."

Eva Garcia is sitting on an old railroad tie at the side of the alley with her boyfriend, Nacho (pronounced "Neecho"). Both are in their thirties, and bikes are their main form of transport. "We use it to go shopping," she says. "Sometimes we go swimming, go fishing. Just around the neighborhood, just to get around. It's not like a car, where we could go to, like, Lakewood or something." She found out about Derailer from a cousin's son, Tristan, who's about nine. They came here yesterday to get the tires fixed on a bike they found in the Platte River.

"It seems like it's pretty cool, because a lot of people come here," she says. "And it's all volunteer and it's all free, and you don't have to pay for nothing, so it's helping out the neighborhood."

She's heard that Derailer is in trouble with the city. "I think that's pretty messed up," she adds. "I don't see why they should, because it's all volunteer work, and it's like, you know. There's people, like, communicating here. Why would they want to stop something like that? It's not coming out of their pockets. Why should they stop people that are trying to help other people? I mean, if anything, it's like the city should pitch in!"

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