Four years ago Tyrone Stevenson founded Scraper Bikes as a 17-year-old. Now at 21 he's turned it into a non-profit organization and the Original Scraper Bikes in Oakland has become a great thing for kids in that area for many reasons. It guides them away from drugs and gangs, promotes education as well as a healthy recreational activity, and it inspires creativity.
Scraper bikes are equal parts art project and pragmatic transportation. Far less than the cost of a scraper car – the lowriders from which the bikes borrowed their name – scraper bikes are tricked out using foil from candy wrappers and soda cans, their frames painted with spray cans from the .99 cent store.
“The frames are donated or found around the neighborhood,” says Stevenson. The oversized wheels may be the most expensive component, but all told, a scraper bike can be built with a few dollars and some sweat equity. “Kids show up at my house every day of the week to work on their bikes,” says Stevenson.
These are not just any kids. In order to join the scraper bike team you must come with your report card and demonstrate at least a 2.0 GPA (Stevenson checks them every week). While academic achievement and sustainability have not exactly defined street cool in the past, the tactic appears to be working: the group began with just eight or nine and now has almost a group of 40 mostly 13-16 year-olds.
Stevenson plans to leverage the attention the group has received to build an advisory board and raise funds for a community center and bike shop that could serve more neighborhood kids. “Each Saturday, the group grows,” he says. “I’m running out of space in my backyard.”
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