For Chris Chambers, having a bicycle isn’t just a means of recreation. It’s a way to get to work, and to live independently.
Chambers, a 46-year-old man with disabilities, has worked at the Bayview Restaurant as a dishwasher for four years, and at other businesses in town since he was 20.
Unfortunately, Jan. 13 proved to be an unlucky Friday the 13th for Chambers, whose bike was stolen in spite of being locked up outside the restaurant, in plain view of the street.
Port Townsend Police Chief Mike Evans confirmed that a “15-minute Loading Zone” sign was lifted out of the ground, and the bike’s security chain was slipped loose from it.
Evans added that the city’s public works department told him it planned to check and repair the sign as needed.
“This was Chris’ only form of transportation,” said Kelly Anthony, co-owner of the Bayview with her husband, Gerry. “After he found it was stolen, he sat at the counter and was very upset.”
Anthony reported that patrons who heard about Chambers’ plight immediately started offering cash donations to help him replace his bike. She credits this both to the charitable nature of the community and the good will that Chambers has earned from customers and coworkers alike.
“He’s so sweet,” Anthony said. “Even when he has to call in sick, he apologizes so much. He is very committed to his job. Even on those tough Sunday-morning shifts, I know I can count on him.”
“I’m not a slacker,” Chambers said.
Bob Chung, owner of PT Cyclery, estimates that Chambers’ bike was worth $900, with all the customizations that had been made to it. Chambers bought the bike two years ago with his own job earnings, replacing another bike he’d owned for 10 years that had needed an upgrade.
“There’s been a rash of bike thefts here lately,” Chung said. “To a professional bike thief, a bicycle is worth more for its parts. It’s a bummer for Chris. I’ve known his family for years. They’re good people.”
To that end, PT Cyclery and the Bayview Restaurant are jointly conducting a fundraiser to buy a new bike for Chambers. If Chambers’ bike is recovered, the funds are to be redirected to Olympic Neighbors, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization devoted to fostering communities and helping find homes for people with disabilities.
In the meantime, Chambers has had to hitch rides with friends, or walk from his apartment by the Safeway store. He has still been making it to work.
“The few times he’s been unemployed, he just goes crazy,” said Candy Kerr, Chambers’ job coach. “It really matters to him to be able to pull his weight for a team.”
When asked what he enjoys most about working, Chambers said, “The people.” He’s known several customers for years, and whenever he has a free moment, he likes to take care of small errands for the front-counter staff. At the same time, he remains attentive to his own duties.
“If you take a break when it starts to get busy, you’ll get behind real quick,” Chambers said. “It doesn’t take long to get buried in dishes, especially during the summer.”
Not having a bike doesn’t just make it harder to get to work. Chambers also pays regular visits to his friends and his parents, and tries to make his Special Olympics meetings to play basketball.
“I do miss my bike,” Chambers said. “Without it, I can’t go as many places.”