Dose of Reality

I met Bill at the SRT Trail clean up last week.  For two decades Bill has on his own been providing bike maintence training, safety training and mentorship to disadvantaged youth in Reading.  I told him about our initiative. Here’s an email from Bill that is a dose of reality. BTW, I take Bill’s insights as a heads up not as a deterant from our mission. Working under the auspicies of Neighborhood Bike Works does address some of these issues.  Another BTW, I did ask Bill his permission to publish his email since it contains personal info.  Please don’t worry that if you ever email me sensitive info that you will then see it on the blog!  Lisa


Before your group dives into this project you should seek legal advice regarding liability issues.

This is something I had to weigh in my helping of neighborhood youths.

Suppose you provide a bicycle to a youth who then is struck by a car.  A parent or guardian could claim that had you not given a bicycle to the child the accident would not have happened.  The same might be claimed if you fix a non-working bicycle for a child.

Anything of any value here is in my wife’s name alone.  I started legally carrying a handgun, for protection, in 1992 after 8 weeks on crutches.  At the time I was doing case law research for an attorney friend of mine.  He suggested the wife ownership thing in the event I had to use the handgun to protect either of us.  Without nothing of value in my name no fast-buck lawyer would think of taking me into court to recover money for anyone I had to shoot in self-defense.

Several years ago a neighbor child came to me to fix a flat tire on his bicycle.  He then headed out the street.  Two blocks away he failed to stop for a stop sign and ran into the side of a moving car.  Luckily his injuries were minor.

In my neighborhood most children raise themselves on the street.  They usually have a mother who has had numerous male friends who either ignore the children or simply physically abuse them.  They have no one to guide them.  But if the children are injured the mother looks upon it as having hit the lottery.

Generally these children are out late at night and often into the early morning hours.  Just running the streets.  When riding a bicycle they totally ignore traffic regulations.  With this increased risk comes the increased risk for anyone who helps them keep the bicycle in riding condition.

I don’t know about Norristown but here in Reading bicycle theft is a major problem.
Several years ago I had showed the kids the frame number on bicycles and told them to write them down in the event the bicycles were stolen from them.  A few weeks later they start bringing bicycles to me where the frame numbers had been ground off as one might see on a stolen handgun.  In this neighborhood I see bicycles rescued from scarp piles and some stolen from other children.  That is when I started to slowly back out of the whole project.  Since then I have become more selective on who is allowed to come here for bicycle repairs.

As I had told you.  I have been able to teach a number of children how to do their own bicycle repairs.  That number is small compared to the ones who will simply walk the neighborhood looking for a working bicycle to steal.

Last week I got to talk to the Deputy Sheriff who was patrolling the Norristown section of the SRT.  Also the Norristown police officer who was at the brush clearing  work detail.  I was told that Norristown is following in the footsteps of Reading in the number of rental properties  going into Section 8 housing.  If you talk to the police they will off the record tell you that most Section 8 rental properties become drug problems.
Three years ago I had a 13 year old boy bringing bicycles to me to be fixed.  Rarely the same bicycle twice.  A few freshly painted indicated that they had recently been stolen.  Now this boy had several older brothers.  So I took a closer look at this particular family.  Watching the older boys using the bicycles to deliver drugs.  The 18 year-old brother used a cellphone to take the orders.  Using the younger brothers to deliver the drugs to the customers houses.  The whole operation being as if they were in the pizza business.
I still see a few of these deals at night in this neighborhood.  In Feb. we had a drug dealer move into a rental property 4 houses from me.  I watched youths as young as 11 or 12 years old wheel up to the house on junk 20 inch bicycles and then pedal off to make the delivery.  Often they were picking up the drugs for another family member.

Your project has lofty goals as far as getting the “inner city” youths active in riding bicycles.  But once you get an inside view of what these youths do with their time and their bicycles you begin to have second thoughts.  Some of these youths mounted on the typical 20″ bike have become problems on the Thun Trail here in Reading.

You might want to think about another approach to this project.
Here in Reading we have 3 police officers mounted on bicycles.  Acting as Community Officers.  The one who patrols this section of Reading is a friend of mine.  The other week he had a morning at the grade school up the street.  Schooling 8 youths on safe bicycle riding, minor repairs, etc.  He provided the youths with safety helmets.
The other week we saw the West Norriton officer and a Norristown police officer in a tent at Betzwood with a number of helmets and bicycle safety brochures.  You might consider teaming up with the police in this project.  It might look better in the community and provide some degree of protection from being used by the drug dealers and thieves.

Sincerely, Bill Knight


No problem with posting my message(s)on the blog.

Another observation of late.

Two or three years ago the streets around here were full of
youths out on 20″ bikes.  Especially when school is out for
the summer.  This summer I see only a few and I am not
seeing kids showing up to get their bikes worked on.

The local economy is such that I see no new bikes with the
kids.  Added to that is the bike theft problem.  Few of the
parents allow the kids to store the bikes in the house or
apartment.  Left out in the yard overnight and they are
gone.  Even those locked with cables or chains.

The few bicycles I see now are late at night and mainly drug
dealers riding them.



One Response to “Dose of Reality”

  1. Barbara Rosenberg Says:

    I assume that we will hear from Leland how NBW deals w. these liability issues, but as we will not be going solo as Bill is I don’t think that we should have the problem he anticipates. In any event, as I have previously suggested in my QR articles, it is important for all of us to have homeowner’s/renter’s insurance w. liability coverage, as well as umbrella insurance if we have exposure.

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