While NYC is replete with heroes in the medical field, tackling the battle against COVID-19 head on, the local moto community has also stepped up with some creative and resourceful ways to help out: production and transportation of medical supplies – masks, hand sanitizer; rides for medical support staff; and even photojournalistic documentation of the city’s efforts.
Harry Hershfield dubbed New York: 'Where everyone mutinies but no one deserts'. To me, this quote is so apropos about NYC. It's a city teeming with contradictions and juxtapositions. People from all over the world come here to make a name for themselves and to be whatever they dreamed to be in their life.
We’ve partnered with Kirsten Midura from Engines for Change to talk with a few of these local moto icons about what they’re doing for the city, how they’ve been personally affected by the pandemic, and, literally, what keeps them going day to day.
Next up is Dapper Tours NYC's Will Davis, who's using his Ural motorcycle-and-sidecar fleet — normally ferrying tourists around the Big Apple — to give free and safe rides for medical personnel in the city.
1) Welcome Will ... for the readers out there, tell us a bit about yourself, what you do work-wise, and your relationship to New York City.
I was born in Liberia in West Africa and emigrated here because of a civil war in my country. We managed to escape, eventually, and came to the States when I was 10 years old back in the early '90s. I have lived in NYC ever since and now at the age of 38, I would say I am a mix of nature and nurture. My core is back in those old school African values, but I'm also a hardcore New Yorker through and through.
I am the founder of a company called Dapper Tours in NYC. The vision is a belief system in creating memories that matter. The way we do that currently is via off-the-beaten-path tours of NYC using these dope vintage sidecar motorcycles (specifically Ural Motorcycles which are still made like they were back during WW2). I'm super passionate about what we are doing as it combines my love of three of the things I value the most — people and their experiences, motorcycles, and cities ... in this case, NYC.
2) What makes NYC special for you?
Harry Hershfield dubbed New York: "Where everyone mutinies but no one deserts." To me, this quote is so apropos about NYC. It's a city teeming with contradictions and juxtapositions. People from all over the world come here to make a name for themselves and to be whatever they dreamed to be in their life. And that also creates this environment where everything is moving fast and people live on top of one another in close proximity. Some may even say New Yorkers are jaded. That's one side — and then there's beauty in all the things I just mentioned. When the world is going to hell in a handbasket, you want a New Yorker on your side because he or she will step up and step in to do what needs to be done, and more. It's our personalities born from this tough, beautiful city in all its ironies. There are times I see the New York skyline or go over the Brooklyn Bridge and it hits me like, holy crap — I get to wake up in the greatest metropolis in the world with the most fascinating people from all walks of life and all parts of the world — and we're each on our own life journey ... together.
3) Tell us a bit about your chosen cause during this pandemic ... what inspired the idea, what obstacles have you had to overcome? Who has helped make your valuable contribution a reality?
My cause was born out of helplessness ... back on March 14, when we first started hearing of the severity of the pandemic and that weekend when Cuomo announced the city would institute a stay-at-home shutdown. It was so foreign to hear that happening in NYC — aka 'the city that never sleeps'. From there I felt helpless in not being able to do anything to help those most at risk. My brain started working and from there developed the idea to help those in the most need. I run a tourism company using sidecars in NYC — Every pre-booked tour had been canceled until June. I had these resources in sidecars sitting, and that's when it hit me to use them to help the essential personnel — doctors, nurses, supporting staff. They are risking their lives for us but anecdotally, they end up being the most vulnerable when they take public transportation or rideshares like Uber, as there's no safety protocol to protect individuals in these modes of transportation.
So, over a couple of weeks, I developed a safety protocol that was vetted by health care professionals, and an operational and logistical plan to provide safe and sanitary transportation to and from work for these heroes. If anyone deserved preferential treatment ever, it's them right now. Moving forward, we are doing this purely through voluntary suggested tips from the passengers as a way to say thank you to these heroes. The inspiration also came from the fact I was familiar with these bikes being used in World War 2 to take infantry and medical personnel to the front lines. And I thought how apropos in this 'third world war' against an enemy that is more stealthy and cunning than any enemy we've faced, to resurrect these vintage relics and use them for the same purpose.
Our vision does not just stop there. We plan on approaching NYC with an operational plan to provide safe and sanitary transportation for health care workers and essential personnel citywide during COVID-19, but also after COVID-19, as I strongly feel the world for the next few years will be implementing social distancing in one way or another. This mode of transportation, along with our safety protocol, really provides a solution to the problem of exposure to this virus.
Who's helped? I have riders who as demand gets more will be playing a part. Also, Ural has been great in reaching out and offering assistance in any way needed to make this vision a reality. We will be collaborating closely with them moving forward. Tucker Powersports, in Texas, also reached out offering to help with anything we need to keep the bikes operating during this time. I'm really appreciative of both these companies. Obstacles are just logistical things.
However, I am one person, and to get something like this from vision to reality, there are a lot of moving parts. It's very difficult to shoulder that alone, so it's been a lot of long days. But I enjoy it and the fact that the purpose is helping those helping us — makes it worth it. The other challenge has been similarly related — getting the word out about what we are doing to those who need it the most. We have used social media, which has been great, and this past week we have been taking flyers to the hospitals, which really ramped things up in responses. But I also appreciate people like yourself doing these types of interviews which have a huge reach.
Will Davis couriering a hospital employee to work — Will Davis
Over a couple of weeks, I developed a safety protocol that was vetted by health care professionals, and an operational and logistical plan to provide safe and sanitary transportation to and from work for these heroes. If anyone deserved preferential treatment ever, it's them right now.
4) What other needs do you see for the city that members of the moto community could contribute to?
Interesting that you asked this. When I first started, I focused on doctors and nurses needing transport. Little by little other parts of the medical field started to reach out that were in the non-COVID-19 sector. Midwives, for example, reached out and said, "Hey, don't forget about us. We need supplies and support as well." As time went by, there were so many other needs and causes requiring help. My friend Kirsten who is the founder of Engines of Change — connected me to other causes and ways motorcyclists were helping. Delivering food to the elderly from food banks, as they were now social distancing at home. Delivering PPE equipment and other supplies from organizations donating to various hospitals and doctors.
I've even heard of some moto organizations raising money to help with a particular COVID-19 related cause. I also must say, NYC has an interesting relationship with motorcyclists. Unfortunately, a few bad apples give the rest of the group a bad name ... that motorcyclists are daredevils, irresponsible people ... when it's actually quite the opposite. I've seen it during COVID-19 pandemic, but several times before this. Whenever there is a need and people are affected, motorcyclists are the first ones to step up as a community. I truly hope that is remembered after COVID-19 in regards to the City of NYC and how they treat motorcyclists and our rights moving forward. We are an integral part of the positive landscape of NYC and should be viewed and treated as such in regards to motorcycle laws, etc.
5) How have you personally been affected by the COVID-19 crisis and what do you do to keep positive day to day?
I personally have had friends lose family members and friends. I'm thankful I have not been directly impacted as of yet, and I obviously hope it stays that way. Physically I feel very good. I told a friend the other day that in a way — as with everything in life — along with the bad, there is some good if we choose to see it. I chose to use this period to look at my life and to assess and make changes where I needed to, whether it was a better mental and physical health care regimen, or pursuing a life full of even more gratitude at the things I have and not focusing on the things I don't. I think it's so easy when we are going fast, as we are especially in NYC, to take for granted how blessed we are.
This is also the first time in my lifetime and hopefully, last that two very amazing things have happened. Time stopped. COVID-19 has caused us to stop in our tracks literally, and that has some interesting results again — to look at ourselves for self-improvement. But, also it's the first time in history that every single human and organization is focused on one thing, in this case, COVID-19, and I am really pleased with what I have seen we are capable of when we put our differences aside and focus on doing something positive. I hope it becomes the norm — this new paradigm — moving forward.
Will Davis and family
Little things we take for granted like hugging our loved ones is what I look forward to, and as bad as this thing is treating us, I'm thankful for the lessons and things it's teaching us to appreciate in life.
6) If you're looking at that light at the end of the tunnel, what's the first thing you want to do once this crisis subsides?
The first thing will be to hug my loved ones. Ever since this thing happened, I have not had physical contact with my mother and father. It was their anniversary a couple of weeks ago and I went to their home to visit them as I would normally. But for the first time ever, I stayed outside and we talked from afar through the glass. I did not want to even take the chance of possibly infecting them as they are in the high-risk bracket being older. Little things we take for granted like hugging our loved ones is what I look forward to, and as bad as this thing is treating us, I'm thankful for the lessons and things it's teaching us to appreciate in life.
You can contact Will Davis online at dapper-tours.com, and Instagram: @dapper_tours_nyc. A gofundme has also been set up to help defer the costs of this ride program: click here.