For the past month, a workshop full of damaged bikes has greeted the staff of This Machine Tulsa every morning as they enter their office in the Meadow Gold District.
“It hurts every day,” This Machine Executive Director Katie Sawicki said of seeing the amount of bikes they have in the shop.
This Machine, a local electric bike share organization founded in 2018, has suffered several losses since late August, and its workshop now has rows and rows of about 50 damaged bikes that need repairs or to be salvaged.
On Aug. 27 and 28, 16 bikes were stolen and vandalized, totaling $20,000 in damages. The vandals took sledgehammers to the bikes’ locking mechanisms, and some were even thrown off an overpass. Eight of those still have not been recovered, but the eight that were found have to be scrapped for parts because they were too badly damaged.
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“It’s hard because we just want people to ride bikes,” Sawicki said. “If they need the transportation, we have an equity membership program, so we’re always working to make things more accessible. It’s really heartbreaking when you think about, it’s just malicious. It’s not somebody in need.”
Additionally, for a month and a half before the August theft, Sawicki said, it seemed like almost one bike per day was being damaged or stolen.
The bike share program usually has about 180 to 200 electric bikes in operation around Tulsa, but this recent set of thefts and damages took that number down to about 115 bikes.
This Machine’s staff of six have been working to get the bikes back up and running, and there are now about 160 bikes now in operation. Still, it takes time when so many bikes need repairs.
“A lot of people use the bikes to get to work, or for groceries or fitness, so we’re trying our best to be operational,” Sawicki said.
The stories like those of people who use the bikes, and the good work This Machine’s bikes have been doing for the community keep the team pushing forward, Sawicki said.
The average Tulsan spends 25% of their salary on transportation costs, Sawicki said, and shared bikes in the community helps take some of that load off for people.
The environmental impact also has a measurable amount of benefit for the community.
“This past year, of the ones who just used the bikes for transportation, we figured out 14.3 lives were saved due to the pollution reduction,” Sawicki said. “We’re helping people. We’re helping them get to work, helping them by having cleaner air for the community, providing that fitness option. That’s what keeps us doing it every day.”
But while This Machine staff members are dedicated to helping the Tulsa community, they are also asking the community to help them as they recover.
This Machine also just received a shipment of brand-new bikes to replace some of the stolen ones and are having a volunteer day Wednesday evening when members of the community can come and help get them operational.
This Machine was founded from Tulsa Tough in 2018 and has electric bike share access across 14 square miles of Tulsa from Pine Street to 41st Street. It recently expanded into the Rose District in Broken Arrow.
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