Burning Man Feedback: Stolen bike Lost and Found and Yellow Bikes Travis

On the Wednesday of Burning Man, my bike was stolen. I had parked it in front of Soma with a cheap 4 number wire lock on the front wheel. So no drunkard took it, the lock was cut with tin snips or better :-(. And darn it, I was less than 5 minutes away from seeing the thief. I had glanced at my bike and decided not to leave yet, I took a quick stroll around the Soma fuel depot and went back to the bike. I immediately found my jacket on the ground, which had been sitting on the back of my bike… but no bike. But no matter.

I sent this letter to Feedback @ Burning Man today.

This is a letter mostly about stolen bike policies. I apologize in advance if it comes off as an angry letter. I really want to help improve on the state of things which is why I am bringing these issues to you.

At about 6pm on Monday, the last day of Burning Man I spoke with a man named Travis who was moving Yellow Bikes around on a truck. He drove up to me and some aquaintances at Center Camp and asked what we were doing. We had been looking around at the rows of unclaimed bikes. I explained that my bike had been stolen and I was looking for it or a suitable replacement. He gave me a long cold evil-eye stare and very strongly told me not to take a bike that didn’t belong to me but instead fill out a form at Playa Info, or that I could fill out a form with him the next day, Tuesday. We then went our ways.

1) I went to Playa Info and the place had already been disassembled. In its space there was a shade structure, a desk and some papers on the desk. The papers did not concern a Lost and Found registry. Obviously there would be no way to find Travis again since I learned nothing more from him except his name. So could anyone ever possibly fill out a Lost and Found bike form?

2) The 2009 Survival Guide has no mention of a Lost and Found registry. The Burning Man website mentions “At the end of the event, lost bikes (e.g. abandoned ones that have been gathered up) can be recovered at Playa Info. Unclaimed bikes are donated to Reno-based non-profits”. I note that they are not talking about a Lost and Found registry. So how could I have known about this mythical Lost and Found registry without angry Travis and his evil eye burning my guilty soul?

3) Most importantly, let’s say that Travis is right and I found the Lost and Found bike registry. It is obvious this would serve no one. I can imagine the phone call I might get a week after Burning Man, “Hey we found your bike. It’s in a pile of other bikes in Gerlach. You can either come and get it or we’ll donate it.” If I actually got that phone call, I’d be -very- angry.

So, in short, I’d like to ask Travis from Yellow Bikes (and Burning Man) how he can justify trying to push on me and presumably other people a policy of a Lost and Found bike registry that has an absolutely 0% chance of returning any bikes to their owners.

Some possibly better solutions include:
– a laissez faire policy about bikes
– publicizing and operating a Lost and Found registry (I dunno, sounds like a lot of work)
– encouraging and supporting volunteer efforts (I’ve heard that previous volunteer efforts met with mediocre success)

Thank you very much for your time and consideration. I look forward to my new bike being stolen in the big Metropolis in the desert next year ;-)

Lee Sonko


  1. Richard Lee says:

    One idea is to register and TAG your bike before leaving for BM. If you TAG it enough, both obvious and not so obvious, you have at least 1/2 of a chance of recovery. There are a number of free bike registry services, but which ever one you use make sure to TAG it in a number of differnt places as shown HERE. And of course, a decent case-hardened security chain would keep the bolt cutter fiends at bay….

  2. lee says:

    Richard, thanks for the suggestion though that doesn’t address my main concern. Please reread “#3 Most importantly…” in my post.

  3. […] having my bike stolen at Burning Man, I bemoaned to my friends that I now lived in Walk-in camping with no easy way to […]

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