02 May 2023

One Person’s Trash Is Another Person’s Lifeline

 If one were to ask most Americans which possessions they most fear losing, their cars would be high on their lists.  Especially in areas outside city cores, away from mass transportation networks, people depend on their automobiles to get to work or school and for many everyday tasks.

For people who don’t own or drive cars—whether by choice or circumstances—bicycles can be their connection to the rest of the world.  I am one such person.  Others include a club in which I hope not to become a member:  people who don’t have housing. 

In New York, where I live, and in other cities, one often sees battered, grimy and rusty machines among tents, sleeping bags, shopping carts, boxes and shipping crates sprawled under bridge and highway underpasses, train trestles and in any public space with something spread, hanging or standing over it that can provide at least a partial shield from rain and other elements. Because those spaces are often squalid, through no fault of their inhabitants (Americans never have been very good at taking care of public spaces), whatever ends up in them—including their inhabitants’ possessions and the inhabitants themselves—are seen as disposable.

At least, that seems to be the attitude (mis)guiding some City of San Diego officials.  They, who fancy themselves the finest of the self-proclaimed “America’s Finest City,” went into encampments (Would they enter someone’s house or apartment without knocking on the door or ringing the bell?) and tossed unhoused people’s bikes into garbage trucks.

As activist Jacob Mandel pointed out, “For unhoused people, a bicycle can be a lifeline, providing low-cost/free transportation to employment that could break the cycle of poverty.”

He added, “The city is destroying those lifetimes.” Not to mention that if anyone else did what those officials did, it would be considered theft.

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