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Meet Nimbee, the mascot who scorns bike lanes, development and change

Nimbee wants his hive, and yours, left alone — and he’s not afraid to sting (with words) anyone who disagrees with him

Nimbee speaks through the signs he waves. (Courtesy of The Takoma Torch)
7 min

When John Bauters, the mayor of Emeryville, Calif., visited D.C. last month, he encountered a roadblock in his bike lane. There, standing on the street in front of him, stood a human-sized bee, carrying a sign.

“Bee against bike lanes!” read one side. On the other: “Bee against Bauters!!”

Bauters laughed, stopped his bike and laughed some more. Later, he tweeted about his surprise encounter with Nimbee, the satirical mascot who can be a pest in ways that go beyond appearance.

“Folks, when I say I was not prepared to not only encounter @TheNimbee on Pennsylvania Avenue, but to be THE SUBJECT OF ITS IRE … OMG,” Bauters tweeted. “You just have more fun when you’re biking. That’s the truth.”

Nimbee, who has his own Twitter account, posted photos of the encounter and offered his take on their exchange.

“I told that @JohnBauters to take his stupid bike lanes back to Emeryville, so we’ll finally have room for cars in DC!” he tweeted.

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Nimbee is not afraid to sting others (with words) to make a point. And his points always align with a Not In My Back Yard, or NIMBY, stance. He picks the places he goes and the signs he waves with a focus on a singular goal: To keep his hive and yours unchanged.

Ask him what he stands for and he will tell you: “I adore 1950s-era suburban planning. Single-family zoning is the bees knees: big lots, big houses, big streets and ample parking.”

Ask him what he stands against and he will explain: “I dislike anyone or anything that threatens to change my neighborhood from what it was like the day I moved here. Any change that happened up until that moment is totally cool, though, and should be given historic preservation protection in perpetuity.”

That’s right — I spoke to a bee. Well, sort of. I interviewed his creator, Eric Saul. Then I interviewed Nimbee, who has become well-known in several Maryland suburbs and has started to gain a national following.

Saul said people in Connecticut, California and Colorado have asked Nimbee to participate in protests in their communities. Nimbee doesn’t currently have a travel budget, but Saul hopes to see him eventually attend events in other cities.

In the D.C. region, Nimbee has appeared on Zoom meetings, at political rallies and in parades. He has even applied to serve on the Montgomery County Planning Board.

“My experience developing hives and engineering flight patterns for the collection of pollen is what really sets me apart from the other applicants,” reads the letter he submitted with his résumé. It ends: “Thank you for your consideration and I look forward to moving backwards.”

Saul, a 43-year-old architect who does not share Nimbee’s beliefs, has been using humor for years to capture issues in D.C. and its suburbs. In 2019, he created the Takoma Torch, an online site filled with satirical articles. One of those drew the attention of lawyers who sent him a cease-and-desist letter. The article described people as confusing a local baseball team’s website with the sexually explicit OnlyFans site. The headline read, “‘OlneyFans’ Website for MoCo’s New Baseball Team Crashes Due to Unusually High Traffic.”

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About a year ago, Saul brought Nimbee to life. After he shared the idea online, people started sending donations toward the purchase of a costume. Saul scrolled past many costume options before he landed on the one he ordered from China.

“I remember when I saw it, I was like, ‘This is the one. This is it,’” he said. “It was just stupidly funny. I was chuckling. He just has this blank look on his face.”

The costume is made of mostly plastic foam and felt, and when worn, it becomes a sweltering vessel. Saul has put it on a few times, but he said his friend, who prefers to remain anonymous, usually volunteers for that task. Because the costume can prove difficult to see out of, Saul often accompanies him dressed as a beekeeper named (of course) Han E. Combs.

When they have gone out in public, children have run toward them and adults have laughed. “One of the coolest things was this young lady — she just started screaming, ‘It’s Nimbee. I love Nimbee,’” Saul recalled of a parade they crashed.

But people have also responded to Nimbee with confusion and anger. Saul said he doesn’t mind either reaction. The confusion means people are thinking about issues, and the anger is telling, he said. Nimbee is not a Democrat or a Republican. He is neither liberal nor conservative.

“He is a caricature of people who fight anything new or any change,” Saul said. “Nimbee is a mirror of the NIMBYs. He’s just basically doing what they’re doing. If they get offended by it, they should be looking inward.”

Nimbee would disagree about who needs to look inward.

He doesn’t talk, so I sent him written questions. His replies revealed his stripes. He described his creator as a “stupid YIMBY.”

“If anybody needs to have a long look in the mirror, it’s him and all those other YIMBYs who want to ruin our communities with more neighbors, more bikes, and more pedestrians,” he said. He called his critics “developer shills” and expressed an openness to flying to other cities to participate in protests. “I tell everyone how proud I am to be a NIMBY, and I want to encourage other NIMBYs to stand up for what they support — which is not supporting anything.”

His thoughts on bike lanes: “I’m tired of these local politicians shoving these bike lanes down my thorax. We invented cars for a reason: to be able to park as close as we can to our destination while exerting zero physical effort.”

His thoughts on affordable housing: “I’m totally for affordable housing! I’m also for multi-family housing, density, public transit, and all kinds of things like that. I just don’t want any of it near me, on the way to where I’m going, or any place where I would have to even look at it. That’s all.”

His thoughts on Mayor John Bauters: “I knew I didn’t like that sexy John Bauters the minute I heard he rode a bike. So when I found out that shirtless wonder was coming to D.C. to ride his bike with other pro-bike lane extremists, I knew he must be stopped. You should have seen how quickly I convinced him he was wrong because he immediately got off his bike and took a photo with me. Now that dreamboat follows me on Twitter.”

I shared that last answer with Bauters, who had come to D.C. for the U.S. Conference of Mayors when he met Nimbee. Bauters replied in an email. He said whenever he travels, he partners with the local bike advocacy community to take a group ride and discuss “people-oriented infrastructure and community safety.”

“I’m sure the Nimbee thinks it’s the Queen Bee after pulling off that bike lane protest stunt on Pennsylvania Avenue,” Bauters said. “Not to sting its ego too much, but everyone knows all a true Nimbee wants is attention and I just wanted it to buzz off, so I was happy to oblige. Next time I’m in DC I’ll be packing bug spray.”