Why the Denver Cruisers put the brakes on a homeless-themed ride
Brad Evans has never been afraid to make a joke — a good one, a bad one, even a controversial one — and that attitude is part of what has made the Denver Cruiser Ride, which Evans founded in 2005, into a city institution. On Monday, Evans made another joke — this time for April Fools' Day — but he doesn't consider the reason behind it any laughing matter. That's because back in February, Evans asked his Facebook followers to vote on possible costume themes for some of the Cruiser rides taking place this summer, including Rocky Horror, Jungle, Woodstock, Redneck Yacht Club and Homeless. And that last idea didn't go over well with a couple of people, including a former volunteer at the now-closed Derailer Bicycle Collective (see below), a free bike-repair shop that served homeless people, who angrily complained that homelessness isn't a joke.
"People get so wound up about it. Some of them were ready to kill me," Evans says. "My thought is, 'If you don't like it, don't vote for it.'"
But Evans didn't make his critics any happier when he sent out an April Fools' Day note to his large e-mail list — something he does every year — with a fake lineup for this summer's rides, which will start on May 15. "Because we got so much flak this winter for merely suggesting 'Homeless' as a theme to vote for on FB, we decided to dedicate our entire summer in an effort to help break the barriers of intolerance and misunderstanding about this worldwide epidemic," Evans wrote. Possible themes? Shopping Carts & Sleeping Bags; What Smells Like Piss? Alleys, Gutters & Garbage Cans; Shit-Faced on Listerine; Bus Ticket to El Paso; Hey Buddy, Change a Spare; and Who Stole Mah Shoooz?
"What I am doing is trying to be lighthearted and funny," he explains. "It's a play on the stereotypes that already exist, and people are hating on me for that."
By mid-day Monday, Evans had already received more than one hundred e-mails about his prank, including one from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless.
Evans has since released the real list of possible themes for 2013 rides, and while it includes everything from Bible Belt & Panties to Farmers & Farm Animals to Mascots & Major Leagues, there's no Homeless in sight. Evans did include a link where people can donate to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, though, saying: "Stereotypes of any sort, including those that are perpetuated by those that haven't been to this weekly Bike Party, are equally as damning as those very real ones we brought to light today in our April Fools Joke themed themes."
The dismount: And speaking of Derailer, the twelve-year-old neighborhood bicycle collective (and focus of a Westword cover story) closed its doors at the end of 2012, citing a shortage of volunteer management. Derailer had offered community workshops on how to fix bikes for free to people who couldn't afford them, including the homeless, former prisoners and others who need transportation.
Last month, what's left of the organization announced that it would give its bikes and materials and tools to four other groups, including one that plans to take over Derailer's former location at 411 Lipan Street; that organization, the Bike Pit, will offer bike-repair programs for women and transgender riders. The other groups are Girls Inc., which will be set up with a bike-mechanic classroom; El Centro Humanitario Para los Trabajadores, which will get a "fix-a-bike station" at its location downtown; and La Academia, a school run by the Denver Inner City Parish.
According to longtime Derailer volunteer Mac Liman, closing up was sad, but she hopes the transition process will go well. "There are bittersweet feelings, but I think this is going to turn out really great," she says. "We have set these programs up and put them into a position to succeed and expand in places where we couldn't anymore. That is the hope and dream."
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