[TheThinkTank] bike thieves in the shop?

Mark Rehder mark at re-cycles.ca
Wed Jul 2 12:57:48 PDT 2008

We seem to have the opposite problem: we do not have enough  
volunteers to be as open as often as we'd like, but on the other hand  
we don't tend to have kids in the shop and almost no theft issues.

Re: theft - we caught one guy leaving with parts he did not pay for.   
When confronted with this he claimed he should not have to pay  
because he had donated bikes to us (yeah, six bikes, all of which  
were bad enough that he did not want to work on them, and five had to  
be scrapped). After arguing and swearing at us he was banned on the  
spot, and he finally left after we said would call the Police if he  
didn't leave.

We had to ban another fellow who was a continuing challenge to us.   
He is ADHD with some other stuff going on, and we could just not  
handle him.  He was caught leaving with something he had not paid  
for, he said "oops" and we forgave him, but later, upon him not  
meeting some restrictions we had to put on him, we had to ban him for  
a year (recently extended).

We had one very keen fellow come in saying he wanted to become a Head  
Mechanic.  He was knowledgeable enough, but very impatient with our  
request that we need to spend some time getting to know him first  
before letting him into the core group and granting key access.  We  
grew increasingly wary of him, and one night he said "so, do I get to  
be HM or not?" and I said "soon" and he grumbled and headed off.  The  
next day our shop was broken into for the first time, and only our  
cash box removed (containing about $100).  We never saw the guy  
again, and most of us presume he was the culprit.

Since then we are even more cautious when someone wants to become HM  
right away...

We've been very lucky with the bikes.  We don't ask for ID for test  
rides unless the on-duty HM gets a vibe, and none have disappeared.

Re: kids - we did pass a policy last month saying that children under  
the age of 12 had to be accompanied by an adult.  We've only had one  
vaguely unpleasant experience: at our previous location a trio would  
come in, and only one of them was working on his bike while the other  
two started playing around.  I came back into the shop from our  
storage room to see one of them waving a rubber mallet at the other,  
and so in a very loud voice I said "you two, out of the shop now.  
This is not a playground!"  They left under mild protest and never  
returned, but for another week or so we heard about them getting back  
into the building and playing with the freight elevator.

Considering that our previous shop was located in an area dominated  
by assisted housing we rarely had kids come in.  Then again, we did  
not court them either, as we do not offer an EAB program.  We simply  
do not have the volunteer staff to run such a thing. Which leads to...

Volunteers: we seem to be treading water attracting core vols.  We  
have low staff turnover, but when someone does leave we are basically  
able t replace them, but not add more.  After ten years we are still  
only open three nights per week, and have only added a Sunday  
afternoon shift for volunteers because I will go and staff it.

We do have volunteers coming in and working on bikes, but not every  
shift, and most are beginners to intermediate. We seem to have little  
luck in attracting more experienced mechs. that could help expand our  
hours.  Perhaps some come in on a busy Spring evening and think the  
shop is too hectic and don't want the responsibility, or the simply  
don't come in because they have all their tools at home and have no  
need for our shop.

We ARE working our way to more core staff, as our new shop needs two  
(one of reach room) so we now have Shop Assistants for the front  
room, working as Greeters and selling bikes and parts, and cashing  
out those leaving the work room.  Some of the folks will become HMs  
in the future.

Mark Rehder - Director
re-Cycles Bicycle Co-op

On 26-Jun-08, at 11:19 AM, Urban Bike Project Wilmington, DE wrote:

> What UBP is doing about similar issues, The Outline:
> 1. No EAB's during regular shop hours
> 2. One or two people assigned to work with kids, in a specific area  
> if possible.
> 3. Kids with minor repairs get help first, then the bigger projects.
> 4. Volunteers get assigned specific tasks/roles (read: idiot proof)  
> with specific guidelines
> 5. Too many cooks in the kitchen? Have excess volunteers sign up  
> for another day.
> What UBP is doing about similar issues, The Ramble:
> UBP is just coming off of our youth ban tonight after some thefts.   
> Before the ban we were, like you, struggling to help kids with EAB  
> as well as helping adults that come into the shop.  It didn't work.  
> At all.  Adults would leave because there were so many rowdy kids  
> and kids would just, well, be kids.  Putting a number cap on kids  
> didn't work because they wheedled their way in anyway (wouldn't  
> you?) and by the end of the night the shop was overrun.
> We like Sopo's idea of having one designated person to work with  
> kids and them having their own tool kit and work space.  We also  
> recognize that doing EAB and open shop at the same time is  
> impossible as each child needs constant supervision/guidance and a  
> structured environment to learn effectively.  EAB is on hold/ 
> stopped until we come up with something more meaningful and concrete.
> There will be a triage of sorts when youth come to the shop. The  
> first bikes fixed are the ones that have the best chance of being  
> completed (flats, popped chains, bar/brake adjusts) and then with  
> whatever time is left we can work on the baskets.  No matter how  
> badly the kids NEED to ride their bike home that night (which they  
> all do...) we help with the basic repairs first.  Kids that aren't  
> working on their bike must wait outside, which creates another  
> issue, but at least they're not wandering around the shop/building.
> As far as "jockish volunteers" we have a hard time with some  
> volunteers doing all the work on peoples bikes. There's nothing you  
> can do other than constantly stressing that your goal is to teach  
> and their hand shouldn't be holding the wrench.  Call them out if  
> you must, usually it still goes over their heads, try assigning  
> them to other tasks. We also have experienced a surge of  
> "volunteers" lately.  The reason that's in quotes is because these  
> people show up to hang out, work on their own bikes and bring more  
> "volunteers" with them.  I've found that these people are
> To deal with this we've gotten specific about our volunteer roles.   
> There is a Greeter, One Mechanic per workstand, Head Mechanic,  
> Youth Mentor/Helper, Back Room Help and Back Room Supervisor.  Each  
> of these positions is spelled out in great detail.  When people  
> show up to help on open shop days they get assigned a position that  
> is appropriate.  If they're not needed and the shop is busy,  
> they're asked to wait outside or to sign up for another day ahead  
> of time.  That's the theory anyway....we're working on it.
> Good luck, this past couple months have been a wealth of relavent  
> information on the Think Tank and I/UBP really appreciate the  
> ability to learn and share ideas with other organizations, big and  
> small.
> Brian Windle
> On Thu, Jun 26, 2008 at 3:24 AM, <jirs0004 at umn.edu> wrote:
> Bike theft lead the Grease Pit to close the shop to kids for two  
> weeks the end of last summer. When 15 bikes were stolen by kids who  
> we were helping, but could not identify by name or face later we  
> knew that something needed to change. The week long session of  
> meetings lead to a shop manual to help us understand how to focus  
> and think of ways to earn the respect of these kids.
> Despite all of our best efforts to learn names, focus our attention  
> for Earn a bike kids onto a special day, and to keep shop security  
> tight, we have had little success. Kids are stealing out of our  
> donations jar and taking bikes from under our noses.
> Because our space is shared with a theatre, security needs to be  
> tight, but this would leave us with too few collective members in a  
> space that is already over-run with people needing help.
> While all of this is going on we are also experiencing a mass of  
> volunteers who are bike jock-ish and act as if the shop is theirs.  
> In order to help maximize the shop accessibility and friendliness,  
> we need to figure out a solution and proto.
> Question 1: How can we give kids the attention they need while not  
> limiting the number of commuters that we are helping? (as they are  
> already discouraged by the lack of assistance and excessive  
> quantity of kids in the shop)
> Question 2: How can we effectively utilize our volunteers without  
> constantly monitoring them and having to call them out or hear  
> about them later?
> I would also like to know what success orgs have had with limiting  
> the number of kids in the shop.
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> -- 
> Urban Bike Project of Wilmington
> --a 501(c)3 non-profit bike shop--
> 1908 N. Market Street (entrance is in the parking lot behind the  
> building)
> Wilmington, DE 19801
> Hours:
> Thursday 6:30-9:00
> Saturday 1:00-4:00
> Visit us online at http://urbanbikeproject.org
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