Pedaling Profits

By Michael R. Malone

Pedaling Profits

By Michael R. Malone
UM Police Department's Innovative Fundraiser Sells Abandoned Bikes to Support United Way

Sale day at the Pavia Garage was a race of its own—prospective buyers swapping seats between bikes, ratcheting handlebars, and gripping gears and brakes to gauge whether they wanted to give a new home to one of the hundreds of abandoned bicycles.

By the end of the day, there were lots of winners—and most importantly the United Way, which earned $3,880 in profits for their 2017 Campaign from the innovative sale.

The idea to sell the bikes, abandoned around campus and reclaimed by the UM Police Department as part of the Bicycle Registration Program, was the brainchild of Alex Martinez, crime prevention manager for the department and new United Way ambassador for her unit.

“We had a huge, huge response from the University of Miami community,” said Martinez, who joined the University last May after 10 years with the Pinecrest Police Department, where she organized a number of fundraising events in addition to her other duties.

Alex MartinezThe fundraiser, part of UM’s 2017 United Way Campaign, took place November 16, yet sales have continued over the past week. Bikes sold for $20-$50—one Honda moped went for $60—depending on their condition. Martinez says that as many as 150 were sold.

“People got a very good bike for the price, and instead of being trashed or given away, we were able to recycle hundreds of bikes to the community,” she said, adding “it also helps us to encourage a more bike-friendly environment at the U.”

Abandoned bikes on campus pose an ongoing conundrum for police. Bikes that appear to be abandoned are tagged with a 20-day notice. After that, they’re removed and stored in the “dungeon”—a bike cemetery in the Pavia Garage. Another 90 days, and the University absorbs the bikes. Historically they’ve been given away to local organizations or trashed.

Yet “one wo/man’s trash is another wo/man’s treasure.”

Judyann Arzadon, who works in the Herbert Wellness Center, said her husband told her about the sale and encouraged her to stop by to find a bike upgrade for their son.

“We were looking for a bike, and the idea of supporting the United Way was an added motivation,” said Arzadon, as she watched the sparks fly as the lock was sawed off her new used bike.

The UM Bicycle Club was on hand on sale day, providing free bike repairs—parts are provided at cost—to new buyers. Club president Alan Liu, a senior studying neuroscience, explained that the club has a three-pillar focus: posting about group rides; providing free repairs every other week for the UM community; and providing outreach for community organizations such as Camillus House to provide bicycles for the homeless.

Club members helped sort through the array of abandoned bikes, marking some “ready to ride” and others “in need of loving care.” They made some repairs on site and will roll out their service cart (the club, which formed a year, has no “home” or location on campus) next Nov. 26 for another repair day. Contact the club via their Facebook group page.

As part of the sale, UM Bike Club members were also visited by their peers from Florida International University, creating a bridge project between the two colleges.

Lock Off
Martinez said that the UMPD’s Bike Registration Program, launched a decade ago, has reduced bike theft by 90 percent since its inception. Police hope to soon provide for online bicycle registration, and are studying a bicycle sharing program, such as that implemented recently in nearby City of South Miami.

Martinez, a big fan of sustainability and promoting environmental awareness, says she’s hopeful that the U will soon improve on its current League of American Bicyclists bronze rating, to become a more bicycle friendly campus.

Earlier in her career, she owned an organic cotton clothing business which she eventually sold. Becoming a parent, she said, increased her motivation to become more active for the good of the earth.

“Becoming a parent makes you become more of a preserver,” Martinez said. 

Police are preparing to do another campus-wide bicycle sweep in December. Another abandoned bike sale will take place in April or May 2018.

Also donations are still being accepted for the TeamUM 2017 United Way campaign, to make yours and to help our team reach its $1 million goal, visit Work Day.