In a city struggling with violence and misguided youth, Oakland, California’s Scraper Bike Project has done amazing work to give kids a positive outlet that promotes the green movement through customizing bikes. Founded in 2007 by 20-year-old Tyrone Stevenson (aka Baby Champ), the project has engaged over 250 youths in building, repairing, and customizing bikes. The name “Scraper” comes from the slang for custom painted, low-rider cars with over-sized rims so large that they sometimes brush the wheel well. These Oakland kids may not be able to own an expensive, tricked-out gas guzzler, but Stevenson’s intention is to enable then to have the same empowerment and artistic expression by customizing a more sustainable mode of transportation.
The Scraper Bike Project invites Oakland residents as young as 7 years old to customize their bike using upcycled materials like candy wrapper and soda cans. But in order to be eligible to remain in the crew, the member must keep a 3.0 Grade Point Average and follow bike safety rules, such as riding single file. Once a rider has ridden their bike ten times with the crew, Stevenson, known also as the Scraper Bike King, and his “Captains” can decide if the two-wheeler is up to par, or if it needs more creative flare.
A viral Youtube video featuring local rap group Trunk Bois has helped the project gain notoriety and funding to purchase bike parts for the crew. The Scraper Bike crew also has generated publicity by rallying for rides against gun violence or other initiatives that promotes healthier lifestyles. Stevenson has been invited by universities to speak about motivating youth culture, and was also named the “Best Green Transport Innovator” by the East Bay Express. Most recently, the Scraper Bike project was shortlisted for the NAU Grant for Change.
“Oakland has been taken over by scraper bikes,” says Stevenson. The media has been paying attention too. Sharing the crew’s interest in tinkering, Make Magazine and Instructables covered the project, and the crafting of Scraper Bikes has spread internationally. “There’s people from literally across the world making these bikes, from Portland, Oregon, to Japan to Australia to Jamaica.”
Stevenson has bigger plans for Scraper Bikes as the non-profit evolves. In a video interview, he speaks passionately about his vision for a green-tech education facility and bike shop headquartered in Oakland. With the project’s green innovation, and guerrilla marketing as effective as critical mass, we think this dream is not too far off.