Black Rock City Yellow Bike Project – Burning Man

There’s a thriving bike culture at Burning Man sponsored by Black Rock City’s Department of Public Works, which maintains the Yellow Bike Project, providing bikes for participants to use. They also operate a lost and found for bikes that have been misplaced during the event.

So, how do you move 47 000 people around a city where driving is prohibited? The answer is bicycles, bicycles and more bicycles! Black Rock City’s Yellow Bike Project was launched in 2006, and has been growing each year. The Yellow Bikes are community property at Burning Man, and are designated to be shared within the community and available for all to enjoy.

Gifting is part of the philosophy of the event and in 2007 the programme got an unexpected major kick in the pants when an anonymous donor gifted 1000 bikes to the Yellow Bike Project. The shipment of unassembled bikes hit Black Rock Station just a couple of weeks before the event. After a mammoth assembly operation, the bikes were transported to Black Rock City by truck, except the last load, which came via a pedal-powered armada of bike enthusiasts riding from the Burning Man ranch to the playa on an historical ride that’s now repeated each year. Like all new programmes in Black Rock City, it takes a couple of years to educate everyone about community bike etiquette. Bike volunteers inspected parked bikes to ensure that community bikes were not being locked or hoarded. Bolt cutters helped educate a couple of participants that community bikes are owned by, well, the community. About 80% of the Yellow Bikes were recovered after the event, meaning that about 20% were taken from the playa either as outright theft or perhaps because people thought they were MOOP (Matter Out Of Place) and were trying to do their part to Leave No Trace!

Since 2006 the Yellow Bike Project has had a staggering 2000% growth. One of the most important aspects for of the cycling projects at Burning Man is the community gifting that happens each year after the event. Approximately 1000 bikes are left/lost/abandoned/donated and these make their way to charity and community projects.

Volunteer cycling groups such as the Bike Guild and the Black Label Bike Club have supported the bicycle metropolis in numerous ways over the years. The Bike Guild taught participants how to maintain bikes, and in 2003 it began matching lost bikes with happy riders. In 2007, the Reno-based Black Label Bike Club took over lost and found duties and also staffed the Yellow Bike Project.

Burning Man occurs in the desert near Reno, Nevada, USA. Biking around the temporary city at Burning ManBlack Rock City – is the main mode of transport.

To read more about the core principles of this unique gathering, see Box X.X in Chapter One.

www.burningman.com