Manitoba

Winnipeg man's bike courier business salvaged after thieves steal trailer

Stuart Irvine's dream to get a bike delivery business rolling — offering services from picking up recycling and compost to delivering groceries — was derailed when his cart was stolen outside his Winnipeg apartment.

'It's good to see … that there are people like him out there'

Stuart Irvine, who says his physical disability makes it easier for him to bike than walk, wanted to start his own bike courier business. His $700 bike cart was stolen outside his apartment in October. (Stuart Eco Stu Irvine/Facebook)

Stuart Irvine's big hope to get a bike delivery business rolling — offering services from picking up recycling and compost to delivering groceries — was derailed when his cart was stolen outside his Winnipeg apartment.

But the 48-year-old, who has a physical and mental disability, has seen his dream salvaged by a good Samaritan with a passion for bicycles and helping people.

"There's a lot of good people out there. You never know that they exist until something like this happens and they step forward and offer you a hand," Irvine said about Dan Spiers, 44, a teacher from the city's Pembina Trails School Division.

"It's good to see, with a city full of all the murders and crime, that there are people like him out there."

Spiers heard Irvine's hard-luck story on CBC's Information Radio show on Tuesday and immediately wanted to step up.

"As a teacher, we're always trying to do things to help people out and with my background … I just thought I can help this guy," said Spiers, a passionate cyclist who has set up bike labs at a number of schools through the Winnipeg Repair Education and Cycling Hub (WRENCH) program.

Stuart Irvine's trailer, pictured in early 2019, was stolen from outside his apartment in October. (Stuart Eco Stu Irvine/Facebook)

The phys-ed teacher first considered making a donation so Irvine could buy a new cart, but Irvine explained the one that would work best would cost $1,500.

Spiers, who has taken a year off from teaching to take a course at Red River College, gulped at that since his income has been drastically reduced. Then he quickly realized it would be more effective to custom make the cart.

"We can build pretty much what he needs, to be able to fold it up and bring it up into his apartment," Spiers said.

The old cart was too wide to fit through a standard doorway, which is why Irvine was forced to leave it outside, locked up in the parking lot of his Taylor Avenue apartment block.

Stuart Irvine was resigned to having to save up money for a new cart but instead, thanks to Dan Spiers, he'll be getting a new custom-made one that he can take inside his apartment.

The program Spiers is taking at Red River is Industrial Arts, which involves welding and woodwork. He spoke to his instructors and the school has offered space and tools to build the cart, provided Spiers and Irvine supply the materials.

"I'm awestruck by that," said Irvine.

"Maybe we can build my Cadillac of trailers now, you know, with all the fixings in there that I'd want in a trailer."

When the old cart was stolen on Oct. 18, Irvine was just starting to get calls from potential new customers.

"It was something I was going to work for and how I was going to be able to spend my time. It was for a good cause," he told CBC in the original interview, which was the one Spiers heard. 

Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011, Irvine also has a physical disability that requires him to walk with a cane.

"I actually ride a bike better than I walk," he said.

Irvine, who goes by the nickname "Eco Stu," wanted to use that ability, his concern for the environment and his experience — after previously working with Compost Winnipeg and Winnipeg Harvest — to create his business.

Dan Spiers, left, and Stuart Irvine met on Wednesday night to discuss design ideas for Irvine's new trailer. (Dan Spiers)

"I've always been a bit of an entrepreneur and was thinking of ways I could work, I can get exercise, and it wasn't going to cost me a lot of money riding my bike," he said.

In the days following the theft, Irvine posted flyers and contacted local bicycle shops, asking them to keep an eye out for the cart, which was a WIKE brand trailer with a custom hitch.

He resigned himself to starting to save up the $700 to replace the cart, which would again be the wider version that would have to be secured outside, not a more expensive version that would better suit his needs.

Now that has all changed, thanks to Spiers.

"He figures we can fix something up pretty good," Irvine said with an optimistic timbre in his voice. "We're gonna sit down and figure it all out."

He also said he's not mad about what happened with the original cart and holds no grudges.

"At least no one got hurt trying to protect it," he said.

With files from Janice Grant

Marina von Stackelberg and Darren Bernhardt

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