Austin, TX – An Austin bike shop owned in part by Lance Armstrong has announced it will no longer fulfil its lucrative contract keeping the Austin Police Department’s bicycle patrol on two wheels after after three employees complained that officers used their bikes to control violent protesters.
Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop, located in downtown Austin, is “the brainchild” of racing legend Armstrong, according to the shop’s website.
KXAN reported that the bike shop, which took a Paycheck Protection Program loan of between $150,000 and $350,000 in April, is walking away from a $314,000 contract with the city.
The most recent contract to supply the Austin police was a three-year agreement with two renewal options.
The bike shop, in business since 2008, has held the contract to provide all the Trek mountain bikes and accessories to the Austin bike cops for eight years, according to a column in the Austin American-Statesman.
On Tuesday, the manager called the Austin police and told them they had been cut off.
“For the past eight years I have had the (good) fortune of buying and purchasing equipment for the Downtown Area Command Bike Patrol and our bicycle public order team,” Austin Police Corporal Christopher Carlisle posted Facebook on Aug 4 . “We have 158 bike officers in DTAC and have been purchasing our bikes from Mellow Johnny’s bike store in downtown Austin, a local business.”
“Today I received a call from the sales manager I have worked with for years at MJ’s. He informed me that they have three employees who work for them that are complaining about providing bikes to the police department in this time of social unrest in protests and disturbances,” Cpl. Carlisle wrote, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “They stated to ownership that they did not like the fact that we use bicycles to help us manage crowds and crowd movement.”
“The ownership of MJ’s has decided to listen to three employees and is sending APD an email canceling the four years left on our contract because three employees do not like police officers and did not like us in the store,” the post continued.
“So now an owner of a business chose to lose one of his biggest contracts and listen to three hourly employees,” Cpl. Carlisle wrote. “The employees I always talked to at MJ’s were great and we never had a problem so I don’t know why MJ’s chose this path to go down.”
“If anyone knows of a bike store that would like to serve the police I would love to talk to them about our next APD contract,” he finished.
The post has since been deleted.
Mellow Johnny’s released a statement on social media on Wednesday that said its “entire employee group was engaged in this dialogue and we delved deep into our community to understand how we could best do our part to keep our customers safe and this city moving in the right direction.”
“Businesses can no longer be non-participants in the communities they serve. We chose what we think will do the most to suture these divides and place our community on the right side of history,” the shop posted.
The statement did not address the violent protests in Austin or the how police used the bikes specifically.
— mellowjohnnys (@mellowjohnnys) August 6, 2020
It did, however, reference its support for the Austin Police Department.
“We are not anti-police. We do believe our local police force will protect us from the very threats we are receiving right now,” the post included.
“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 finished its post.
This is not the first time the Austin bike shop has been mired in controversy, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
In 2018, Mellow Johnny’s announced it had stopped carrying bike accessories made by a company that was an NRA sponsor.
The Trek “Service” model bike the Austin PD bought from Mellow Johnny’s runs $1,439 without options and “was built for those dedicated to serving the public, supporting our communities, and preserving our natural resources,” according to the Trek company website.
Trek recently put out a statement that called the way police used their bikes during the riots “abhorrent,” the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Competitor Fuji announced shortly after the George Floyd riots began that it was suspending sales of its bikes to police departments.
The Police Tribune reached out to Mellow Johnny’s for comment but had not received a response at publication time.