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Mellow Johnny's to continue providing police bikes until end of year

Published August 28, 2020

AUSTIN, Texas (BRAIN) — Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop will provide bikes and services to the Austin Police Department until the city awards another contract, which is expected "sometime before or shortly after the beginning of the new calendar year."

In a letter written by Austin Procurement Manager Cyrenthia Ellis and dated Aug. 25, the city will end the current five-year contract with 30 days' notice after awarding the new contract. The letter followed an Aug. 6 phone call with Mellow Johnny's general manager, Will Black, and service manager Dave Ryther, to whom the letter was addressed.

On Aug. 5, Mellow Johnny's announced through social media it would no longer sell bikes to the police department over concerns officers were using them aggressively to block Black Lives Matter protesters from roadways. The police contract was in its second year.

"We wanted to do everything we can to help the city out, and that's been the case from very early on," Black told BRAIN on Friday afternoon.

The city was "unaware of everything that was going on in the bicycle industry with basically product not available," Black added. "That was the one thing I wanted to relay to (Ellis) was we would be more than happy to fulfill that obligation, but with her understanding that there was going to be — depending on if and when they need bikes — there may or may not be any available."

Black said he doesn't know if the police department will place another bike order before the end of the year because "it goes in waves. Would it be surprising if we got an order sometime this fall? No. But at the same time, I could also see they wouldn't necessarily need to."

The downtown area police command has more than 150 bicycle patrol officers, and the department purchases between 50 to 100 bikes a year, according to Black. 

Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop Fort Worth operates under separate management, and ownership and said on social media on Aug. 5 it was not in agreement with the Austin location's decision.

The Austin shop's decision continued 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.

On Aug. 13, the Austin City Council unanimously voted to cut the police department budget by a third after the department faced criticism over the killing of an unarmed Black and Hispanic man, in addition to use-of-force complaints.

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