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Scraper Bike Culture Provides Lessons for Sustainable Businesses

Oakland resident Tyrone "Baby Champ" Stevenson, inventor of the “scraper bike,” may not have known how big his idea would become when he rolled out his first prototype. Or perhaps he did. His creativity led to a scraper bike movement that is not only gaining momentum in the Bay Area, but is quickly becoming a global phenomenon. By addressing the issue of scarcity in a way that was meaningful to him and his community, his innovation led to a more affordable, sustainable form of transportation and self-expression while also promoting non-violence. And these bikes are really friggin rad.

The scraper bike movement is a microcosm of the larger sustainability imperative because they both share a common driver:


Adapting to scarce resources often requires tremendous creativity. The original scraper car phenomenon involved taking older cars with little market value and making them desirable through customization, offering a more affordable way to have a desirable car. This process was repeated in the form of scraper bikes, whereby kids that either can’t drive or can’t afford scraper cars can hook themselves up with a sweet ride. The scraper bike is an innovation that addresses scarce economic resources, turning old bike parts that may have ended up in a landfill into pieces of moving art that double as carbon-free transportation.

There is also a direct connection between scraper bikes and non-violence. Scarcity is often responsible for pushing communities towards violence. Scraper bikes provide those with limited resources a channel for creative self-expression. Young people can feel seen, empowered, and be a part of a community that is organizing peace rides for non-violence and advocating for sustainability.

What’s the lesson for business and policy? Creating a more sustainable world means getting more done with increasingly scarce resources. It's going to mean non-violence and the equitable distribution of those scarce resources. It’s going to mean empowering communities to become more self-sufficient, and coming up with policy, products, ideas, and services that create meaningful value within the context of a community’s culture. In short, we're going to need a helluva lot of the type creativity and enthusiasm underlying the scraper bike movement.

Carly Smolak

Carly has a BA from Stanford and recently finished her MBA in sustainable management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Her interests revolve around sustainable food production, sports, renewable energy, finance, and sustainable business consulting. She lives in Oakland where she spends her spare time cycling, home brewing, gardening, cooking, and surfing (when she can make it over the bridge).

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