Richmond Program Reunites Cyclists With Stolen Bikes

The remnants of a stolen bike (Jim Crocker/Flickr)

Jaime Silva was devastated when his “baby,” a customized gray fixed-gear bike, was stolen from right under his nose at the local library.

After weeks of searching, Silva and his prized two-wheeler were finally reunited.

Silva was the third lucky owner reunited with their bike through a new bike recovery program run by Rich City Rides, a nonprofit created by and for bike enthusiasts in Richmond.

Najari Smith launched the program as executive director of Rich City Rides. For him, the business of hunting down stolen bikes is personal.

“It’s just really distasteful to steal bikes,” he said.

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Right around the time when Smith started Rich City Rides two years ago, his favorite bike was stolen. In its place was an orange cruiser. Smith rode away on that orange cruiser, which ended up being the first bike Smith gave away through Rich City Rides’ commuter bike program.

Smith has now helped to successfully reunite six bikers with their stolen bikes over the past few months.

Najari Smith, left, and Jaime Silva, right, with Silva’s recovered bike. (Photo courtesy Rich City Rides)
Najari Smith, left, and Jaime Silva, right, with Silva’s recovered bike. (Photo courtesy Rich City Rides)

“The longer you’ve had a bike, the more connected you are to it,” Smith said. “It’s like all the memories of everywhere you’ve ridden on that bike. Getting a new bike just isn’t the same.”

Rich City Rides runs a handful of programs to promote biking and bicycle culture in Richmond, but its newest program started spontaneously.

A community member told Rich City Rides that their bike had been stolen. The organization posted a picture on its Facebook page, and a few people in the community saw the bike around town. They approached the person riding the bike, let them know it was stolen, and were able to recover it and return it to its owner.

Silva, a third-generation Richmond resident, has become a community ambassador for Rich City Rides since being reunited with his bike. This past summer, Silva had ridden his prized personalized fixed-gear bike to the library one day. He had lost the key to his good bike lock and was using a cheap lock, so he sat near a window to keep an eye on it and “check up on my baby.”

He wasn’t watching closely enough. He glanced up, and it was gone.

After reporting the theft, Silva went to Smith and asked for help. Smith posted on social media and spread the word that they were looking for that bike, and Silva heard from people in his neighborhood that they had seen the bike around town.

A month after losing his “baby,” Silva spotted a guy riding it. He approached and was able to talk the man into walking with him to Rich City Rides’ affiliated bike shop, which opened as a cooperative just a few months ago. With the promise of helping him get a new bike through the shop, Silva convinced the man to leave his beloved fixie behind.

“I was whole again,” Silva said. “Getting my bike back kind of gave me my sense of personality back.”

Silva gives a lot of the credit for being reunited with his bike to Smith and the Rich City Rides community in Richmond and on social media.

“I’m one of the lucky stories,” Silva said.

Rich City Rides plans various community rides throughout the year. The next planned event is the 3rd Annual Winter Night Lights Solstice Ride, “a celebration of cycling, lights and music on the longest night of the year” which will begin at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 21.

“We believe that everybody should be able to experience the benefits of cycling,” Smith said. “There’s a bike for everybody.”