There's a new mythical character joining Jack Frost, leprechauns, and the sandman.
It's the Bike Fairy and they live in Vancouver.
Okay, maybe they're not quite magical, but the Bike Fairy does live in Vancouver, and has been leaving charms on people's handlebars since 2017. At first, they were brightly coloured riders made of plastic. Recently, new metal models have been appearing around town and more are on their way for lucky cyclists.
"Ultimately, the goal is to kind of share the love for cycling and bring joy to people who own a bike," the Bike Fairy tells Vancouver is Awesome.
The idea came in 2017 after a friend, GM, died.
"He was the original Bike Fairy," says the Bike Fairy. "He sadly passed away on his bike in 2017."
GM used to hand out old figurines from the Tour de France. In honour of the famous cycling race, little tin characters were created and sold; GM collected and shared those. When he passed, the Bike Fairy created the charms as an artistic form of grieving. The little coloured figures were 3D printed and held little nods to GM.
"The model is kind of based on him in a lot of ways," says the Bike Fairy. "The spirit of the idea is originally from him."
From that tragedy grew the myth of the Bike Fairy, who'd leave little charms strapped to the handlebars of unsuspecting cyclists around Vancouver and abroad.
While they started out as plastic, they've recently gone metal. The Bike Fairy turned to a local jeweller for help and has had casts made; there are now gold, silver and brass coloured charms.
"It's a lot more sturdy and not much more expensive than making the 3D printed one," says the Bike Fairy.
Now, loaded with the new charms, the Bike Fairy is hitting the streets, cycling paths and coffee shop bike racks of Vancouver looking for bicycles worthy of the charm. They look for bikes they think cycling enthusiasts ride, noting there are nuances on each ride that suggest the rider is more serious.
They frequent art galleries, bike shops, parks and pubs, always keeping an eye open for the right bikes when out and about. Sometimes they'll go for a ride with the goal of leaving charms on unsuspecting bikes (and for some exercise). They don't stick around, though, since they don't want to be caught in the act. That's goal number two (after bringing joy).
"I have got caught once when I was visiting in Portland," they note. "We were going shopping there and checking out the cool doughnut shops and the breweries.
"It was a rainy day and I spotted a nice bike I wanted to tag and a guy came running out asking what the hell I was doing to his bike."
The Bike Fairy then had to explain, calmly, what was happening. It was tense at first, but the Portlander lightened up after. Fiddling around with someone's bike is not usually appreciated.
"People don't like you touching their bike," they say. "In a city like Vancouver, where having your bike stolen is almost a rite of passage, people definitely keep one eye on what they're doing and one on their bike."
Charms aren't just found in Vancouver anymore. While about 100 have been attached to handlebars here, there are helpers in Toronto, Vienna, and Amsterdam who've spread another 30. And there's no reason to slow down; it's not about the Bike Fairy of Vancouver, it's about commemorating GM and the joy and community for cyclists, they say.
"There's not meant to be a person behind the Bike Fairy, much like Santa Claus or the actual tooth fairy or Daft Punk or other masked heroes," says the Bike Fairy.
To that end, they have a message for Vancouver's bike riders.
"Keep an eye out for other people with charms on their bikes and keep space on your handlebars and you might be lucky to find a charm on it."