At one time, roughly 20,000 bicycles littered Dallas streets and sidewalks before that city cracked down on its fledgling bike-sharing program.
More than 500 banana yellow bikes that formerly belonged to the Chinese bike-sharing company Ofo wound up in the hands of a Richland Hills charity known as Bikes for Tykes Inc.
And now, an official with that Tarrant County non-profit organization says he wants to find a home for as many of the bikes as possible. Pete Cox, vice president of Bikes for Tykes, said he is courting corporations, universities and other large employers to see if anyone is interested in taking some of the bikes, perhaps for a bike-sharing program.
One prospective candidate, he says, is American Airlines, which plans to offer the free use of roughly 100 bicycles on its bike- and pedestrian-friendly new corporate headquarters that is expected to open next year in Fort Worth. However, in an interview American Airlines officials said they hadn’t yet made a final determination about what kind of bicycles to offer, how many they might need or what supplier might provide them.
In any case, Cox says most of the bikes are in great shape — including about 200 bicycles that are still in their original shipping boxes and have never been ridden. Even the bikes that were once rented for $1 a ride on Dallas streets are in good working order.
“I call them bulletproof,” Cox explained to a visitor at his Richland Hills bicycle repair shop. “They’re really durable. They have solid rubber tires so you won’t get flats. They have internal gear hubs. They have baskets. They have a generator that automatically powers lights on the front and the back.”
Cox said his organization cannot sell the bikes, but would like to donate them to an organization that in return is willing to make a financial donation to Bikes for Tykes, which can then use the money to buy spare parts.
Bikes for Tykes, an organization that started in 2001, is made up of volunteers who repair donated bikes and then provide them to needy individuals. Their clientele represents a wide swath of the North Texas population — including children from low-income neighborhoods, homeless shelter residents and even convicted felons who are trying to re-enter the work force through a halfway house program and need transportation to job interviews.
Bikes for Tykes donates about 1,000 bicycles per year, Cox said — and that was before they received a whopping shipment of the banana yellow bikes from Dallas.
Officials from Ofo could not immediately be reached to comment. The Chinese company was among the companies that swarmed the United States fledgling bike-sharing market with bikes in 2017 — placing roughly 40,000 bikes on streets in 30 U.S. cities.
But earlier this year, as Dallas and other cities pushed back against the glut of bikes littering its street, Ofo unexpectedly pulled back its U.S. effort.
The move caused a stir in Dallas, after hundreds of damaged yellow bikes were found piled up at a recycling center.
But Ofo also donated hundreds of the working vehicles to Bikes for Tykes, as well as one other local charity.
Cox said he got involved when a formerly homeless man he had once donated a bike to — a man who wound up working with Ofo in Dallas — called and told him Ofo was pulling out of the market and asked him if he wanted a few hundred bikes.
Cox said he is glad to have the generous stock of pedal-driven vehicles. But he said his organization would be better off if he could exchange a chunk of his yellow fleet for parts. Cox said that, in his experience, it’s important to have a diverse supply of bicycles because people need a variety of shapes and sizes based on their age, height, weight and other factors.
For example, most rental bikes are too big for small children, and often they’re not a comfortable ride for tall people who might be better-suited for a traditional 10-speed bicycle.
But Cox says he is confident that whoever ends up taking his bikes — be it a company, university, government entity or some other body — will be happy with their yellow fleet.
In Fort Worth, a non-profit program known as Fort Worth Bike Sharing operates rental bikes from docking stations around the city. Almost 1 million miles have been logged on those BCycle bikes since 2013.
But Fort Worth doesn’t allow dockless bicycles such as those once offered by Ofo, or the controversial dockless scooters that are now popular in Dallas. Fort Worth doesn’t have a permitting procedure for them, although a commission is studying the issue.
Cox says he doesn’t worry about his bikes becoming a nuisance because his organization will only donate the bikes to a group that will manage them properly. Or, he said, over time he will eventually find a home for each bike, one by one.
“When you give someone a bike, it becomes their personal property,” he said. “And they take care of it.”