A STOLEN BIKE THAT BROUGHT OUT THE BEST IN HUMAN NATURE
The sign Amanda Needham painted and hung on her New York
after her bike was stolen.
(Courtesy of Amanda Needham)
My bike was stolen a week ago Saturday. It was half my fault,
half my husband’s fault, and 100 percent the fault of the person who stole it.
Left with a lock, a front wheel and a heavy heart, I did the only thing I could
think of: I decided to leave the thief a little note.
Okay, it was a big note. Armed with yellow paint, I crafted an
8-by-3-foot cardboard sign and hung it across the entire front of my landlord’s
Brooklyn brownstone (with his permission). It said:
“To the person who stole my bicycle
I hope you need it more than I do.
It was $200 used, and I need it to get to work. I can’t afford
Next time, steal a hipster’s Peugeot.
Or not steal! PS: Bring it back.”
(For those of you who are not into bikes, Peugeots are fancy
bikes that can cost thousands of dollars.)
I felt a little foolish writing the sign. After all, if my
husband and I had spent nearly as much time double securing my bicycle as I did
writing the sign, I might not be in the situation. But I knew other people’s
bicycles had been stolen in the neighborhood, and the least I could do was
acknowledge what had happened. I left it up for seven days.
Then a young man came to my door.
“Are you the one who got
your bike stolen? asked the guy, who introduced himself as Michael. “I had
that happen to me as well, and I had this bike lying around, so I figured you
might be able to use it.”
flustered by the offer and tried to deflect, saying I really appreciated it,
but wasn’t sure if I’d be able to use it. What was clear, however, was that it
wasn’t about the bicycle, it was about their desire to help. I accepted,
touched by the humanity of the gesture.
A snowstorm came the next day, and my husband suggested I take
the sign down. I refused — my bike was stolen on the weekend, so the sign would
stay up until the next weekend.
Saturday morning, I got a second buzz on the intercom. On my doorstep was a
petite, middle-aged Hispanic woman in a pink Gap sweatshirt and leggings. She
said she lived in Jersey but worked in the neighborhood and made her husband
drive twice around the block so she could fully read my sign. When she read
that I needed it to get to work, she made him stop the car to see if there was
anything she could do.
kind of bicycle do you need?” she asked. “I don’t know much about bicycles, but
if I find one, I’ll bring it to you.”
her that I had signed up for the CitiBike bike-sharing program as a stopgap,
and since it was $14.99 a month, I could use that for now. I told her what
mattered most was that she stopped. I thanked her again.
looked up that Peugeot you wrote about and that’s an expensive bike!” she
is!” I laughed in agreement.
she leaned in and gave me a big hug.
invigorated. This sign was changing things. So much decency was pouring out
from such a simple gesture of opening myself up to the universe.
buzzer rang again the moment I got upstairs.
down the sign, Amanda!” my husband yelled after me as I turned to run back down
time, it was an energetic, salt-and-pepper haired white guy.
this your sign?” he asked. “I passed it on the way to my studio, and took a
picture, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought I should do
very kind of you,” I said, and explained how I’d also received a kid’s bike and
a hug, and what mattered most was that people cared.
I posted a picture on Instagram, and a few of us started talking, and I was
wondering if I could buy the sign off of you for …” he pointed to the
yellow-letters written on my sign “ … for $200?”
laughed out loud and told him that if he indeed did that, I would most
certainly buy a new (used) bicycle with his money.
art dealer,” he explained, “and there’s definitely some craftsmanship in this
name was Steve Powers, and I told him the sign was his, and that he could
auction it for $40,000 for all I cared (as long as I was invited to the party).
As we pulled the cardboard away from its string attachments, he said that there
was an Instagram conversation going about it. He
and Robert Young, an antiques dealer in Britain, had agreed to each purchase an
equal share of my sign.
The bike that was given to Needham after hers was stolen. She
plans to pass it on to someone who needs it.
#KarmaCycle had gone global. It was quite a morning. First of all, I had $200
in cash that I actually needed if I’d ever be able to afford a new bicycle. But
I was also part of a wave of goodness that felt beautiful and real and
inspiring. I realized I didn’t want it to just stop with me.
up the street to Court Cycles, the local bicycle store run by JoAnne Nicolosi,
a female mechanic and small business owner since 1987. I told her what
happened, and asked if she could help me fix up the kid’s bicycle that Michael
gave me and help find it a home. It’s just a regular department store kid’s
bike — but I figure someone out there can use it more than I can.
that’s what we’re doing. In exchange for fixing it up, I helped set her up
on Instagram and Twitter so
we could share the story of the #KarmaCycle, and maybe keep it going.
The bike that was given to Needham after hers was stolen.
plans to pass it on to someone who needs it.
Amanda Needham is a writer, producer and very effective signmaker who lives in Brooklyn. This piece was adapted with permission from her blog Real Tiny Trumpet, which will continue to track the unfolding narrative of the lost bike that found a little humanity in New York City.