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Mellow Johnny's ends sales of police bikes

Published August 6, 2020
Citing crowd-control concerns, the Austin location cancels police contract.

AUSTIN, Texas (BRAIN) — Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop Austin no longer will sell bicycles to the Austin Police Department because of concerns over officers using them to control Black Lives Matter protesters.

The Austin Police Department has for months used bicycles to block protesters from roadways, according to WTBC-TV Fox 7 in Austin. The downtown area police command has more than 150 bicycle patrol officers.

The department purchased between 50 and 100 bikes per year, Will Black, the store's general manager, told BRAIN on Thursday.

"It was a staff-wide store decision," said Black, who added it wasn't a specific incident that spurred the decision. "It's something we discussed for a pretty good length of time to make sure we were all on the same page and doing the right thing. All of us were uncomfortable with what’s going on. It’s all the people who work at the bike shop."

In a statement on social media Wednesday, the store said, “In the context of the current evaluation of community policing in Austin, we have decided to no longer purchase, resell, and service police-issue Trek bikes and accessories under a city of Austin RFP the shop was previously awarded.” It was shared on Facebook and Twitter.

The post concluded with, “We are not anti-police. We do believe our local police force will protect us from the very threats we are receiving right now. We wish this entire community peace and progress and togetherness at the conclusion of these trying times. And we intend to be a part of the discourse, struggle, and growth for Austin, as we have since we opened our doors in 2008.”

Mellow Johnny’s five-year contract with the police department was in its second year. It's been reported that an Austin Police officer said a Mellow Johnny's sales manager said the decision was made because three employees didn’t like the way bikes were being utilized for crowd control. 

Black disputed that, saying it was a staff-wide store decision.

Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop Fort Worth said on social media Wednesday it was not in agreement with the Austin location’s decision. Each location operates under separate management and ownership.

“Mellow Johnny’s Fort Worth is not connected in any way to the decisions made by the Austin location’s management,” according to the post on Facebook. “Mellow Johnny’s Fort Worth supports our community as well as responsible and ethical law enforcement.”

The Austin Police Department has not responded to a request by BRAIN for comment.

This continues a trend of some in the industry calling for the end of police bike sales. BikeCo, the North American distributor of Fuji bikes, suspended sales of bikes to police forces in June, citing recent reports of police bikes being used as weapons at protest marches. Fuji police bikes are sold through bike shops.

Following a Forbes article about the use of police bikes at demonstrations, Trek president John Burke released a statement that said "we support the peaceful protest of police brutality and inequality and oppose any unlawful action by any citizen including police. Our bicycles have played a long-time, important role in community-based law enforcement programs, bringing officers out of stations and vehicles and into neighborhoods where they are more connected to the communities they serve. ... this approach to community relations has delivered positive change over the years, and we are supportive of our products being used in this manner.” Trek's position led to a dispute with some members of its women's advocate program, which Bicycling magazine reported on

Social media reaction was mixed to Mellow Johnny's decision to halt police bike sales.

"Sad, terrible decision. Hope your 3 employee’s who were upset have found their safe spot and can curl up with their blanky’s, coloring books & popsicles," read one of 103 retweets and comments on Twitter.

"Thank you!" read another Twitter comment. "I've seen so many videos of APD using bikes AS WEAPONS by holding them up and shoving them into crowds. This is not only a disgrace to policing, but it is harming the image of bicycles when they are used as weapons."

"Gross miscalculation," read one of 2,300 comments on Facebook. "Your attempt to placate the misguided few will be the downfall of your business. Supporting the local police puts you in a much better position to make a real difference. Now you’ve lost all credibility."

"Thank you and kudos for being brave and taking a stand!" read another Facebook comment. "We as businesses have to take a stand! I’m sure it’s a big contract to be pulled out. I’ll make sure as a fellow bike shop owner and cyclist to support Mellow Johnny's."

"It didn’t really surprise me with the amount of backlash we’ve gotten," Black told BRAIN. "I think right now, with everything going on with people working from home or they’ve been furloughed or whatever, I think that kind of plays into all of this. All the circumstances that we’re living with now. All it takes is one positive message to outweigh the 100 or so many negatives."

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