Keeping the wheels turning
Cyclists' friends raise funds to replace bike
Sitting over the wheels of an industrial-strength tricycle, Louie Evans pedals nearly 1,000 miles throughout the city each month, recording his distance with a digital odometer and clearing his path with a distinctive holler that has kept locals on the lookout for more than a decade.
"I can't imagine a more high-profile cyclist in Boston," said Carl Lavin, who books acts and serves drinks at Great Scott bar in Allston, where Evans and his roommate, Harold Tyler, stop in a few times a week. "That's how he derives enjoyment. He's been doing it forever as far as I can tell, and it's been a big part of his life."
For Evans, 53, who walks with a leg brace and often relies on a crutch, the tricycle serves as recreation and a transportation necessity.
That's why, when his tricycle was stolen from outside Back Bay Bicycles on Commonwealth Avenue early last month, Lavin quickly got to work preparing a benefit concert at the bar to raise money for a new ride. The show, called "Hey! That's My Trike! For the Benefit of Louie," was scheduled to be held at the bar last night.
"A lot of the bike community really wants to be able to come down, help out, and support it," he said. "Even if they don't know him or they think it's charming or part of the character of the city, at the very least, it's a dude who loves his tricycle, and it got stolen, so that's just plain screwed up."
Timothy Libby, who manages the bicycle shop, said he has been fixing flat tires and repairing broken chains for Evans, who lives in Jamaica Plain, for more than 10 years.
In that span, Evans, because he "rides so much and so hard," has ordered three tricycles from Libby, each retailing for about $1,300, which Libby said he has provided at cost while also working to recruit other individuals to contribute some of the difference.
"I really don't believe that he sleeps," said Mike Wissell, who has worked at the shop for the past two years. "That's what he does to recharge himself, he rides his bike and he gets his strength."
But the worst part of this "really terrible, terrible situation," he said, was seeing Evans "totally crestfallen" over his missing tricycle.
"He doesn't have a whole lot of stuff," Wissell said. "He's got a roommate, and his roommate is around a little, but he's got a bike and that's what he does. That's why he's become an icon, this Boston fixture."
"I've been in Boston for a long time, so everybody knows me by my bike," Evans said in a phone interview from the bike shop. His speech can be difficult to understand, but his sentiment about the loss was not.
"I parked it outside the bike shop, and what happened was that someone came by and took it away. I really don't know who took it," he said. "I've got an old bike that I've had for a while, and I'm kind of using that right now."
Local college students, mostly by word of mouth generated on the popular networking site Facebook, have also expressed an interest in helping to afford Evans a new set of wheels.
Nora McIlvenna, a student at Boston University, started a Facebook group named after "the guy on the bike who makes the siren noise," which has grown "from a couple close friends" to more than 1,500 members, many of whom have detailed sightings and posted pictures on its message board.
Local cyclist Mike Lewis, reflecting as he stopped by the bike shop on a recent afternoon, said even his headphones could not drown out the warning cry of the iconic tricyclist as he was walking on Newbury Street last month.
"All of the sudden, I saw a pair of orange flags sticking out over the heads of the people walking and everybody kind of leaning back and getting out of the way, and here he comes," he said. "It makes you smile and it makes you laugh, because it's Louie."