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Vancouver Twitter users rally to get local homeless man back in the saddle

Ivan Saunderson's bike was stolen early this month.

(Photo Credit: CanadaPenguin via Compfight cc)

Homelessness in Vancouver, as many in the city and across the country are aware, is rampant. And like elsewhere across Canada, the bike, for those with limited means, is as much a lifeline as a recreational pursuit. In many cases, it’s a matter of getting around on two wheels or not getting around at all.

So you can imagine how devastating it can be to lose that sense of mobility, which is what a Vancouver man, Ivan Saunderson, painfully learned earlier this month.

In early February, Saunderson’s bike was stolen. Writing in the Georgia Straight, a Vancouver-area publication, Stanley Q. Woodvine broke down the tremendous impact that the loss of Saunderson’s wheels had, particularly given the way he makes a meagre living. Saunderson, Woodvine wrote, “had been left hobbling on a bum leg after the bicycle he relied on for mobility (not to mention his livelihood as a bottle picker) was stolen.”

Woodvine broke the news about his friend’s crisis through his blog, and within days of the post’s publication, Twitter users came together, resolving to get Saunderson back on the road.

“Spurred on and coordinated by the efforts of several people,” Woodvine wrote in an article for the Straight, “including Georgia Straight editor Charlie Smith, homeless advocate Jeremy Hunka, and Provincial Health Services authority executive vice principal Linda Lupini, and aided through the day by retweets and likes from dozens of engaged Vancouver Twitterati, an amazing $545 was collected by 4 pm Wednesday afternoon.”

A trip to a local bike shop later, Ivan was back on the road, his new steed being a Norco Bigfoot mountain bike with winter-ready tires, disc brakes and front suspension. More than that, though, Saunderson added a new U-lock and cable to the purchase — and with it, Woodvine wrote, a newfound and much deeper appreciation for bike security.

“What brought Ivan back to earth,” Woodvine wrote, “was the necessity to take security more seriously.” Saunderson, Woodvine noted, had admitted to taking a lax approach to locking up his bike, though that had been in the past, when he was riding bikes found in alleys or next to trash bins. With a brand new Norco, the need to keep his wheels under lock and key took on an entirely new dimension.

Woodvine encouraged his friend to take that appreciation further, beyond a new U-lock and cable. “I encouraged Ivban to record the serial number embossed into the bottom bracket of his new bike” he wrote, “and to ride over to the Kitsilano-Fairview Community Policing Centre at 1687 West Broadway and see about having the bike recorded in the free Project 529 online bike registration program that the City of Vancouver has been promoting for a few years.”

In the saddle of his new ride, Saunderson decided to take a day off from bottle picking and washing cars, Woodvine wrote, and ride “just for the pleasure of it.”

Read Woodvine’s full account of how Vancouver helped Ivan Saunderson in the Georgia Straight