Where the Ride Takes Us: Places You Never Knew Existed… Just Around the Block
In honor of National Bike Month, we’re spotlighting how bicycles are tools for personal empowerment, social justice and community development with our “Where the Ride Takes Us” web series. Looking through some of the awesome stories and groups in the series made me want take you on an example of a Red, Bike and Green “Community Ride” to show why our motto is “It’s Bigger than Bikes.”
You’ll probably get to our starting point at beautiful park you never knew existed in the predominantly black neighborhoods of southwest Atlanta, affectionately titled the S.W.A.T. The crew is waiting for you — we gather an hour or so early, so everyone, especially newbies, have their bikes prepped for the ride. Speaking of bike prep there’s a whole crew dedicated to making sure that your half flat tire and squeaky brakes don’t keep you from riding safe. It’s always great to have our bike shop or co-op friends Aztec Cycles or SOPO lend us a couple of wrenches and helping hands.
After a group safety check and some instructions, we’re off and running. First thing you’ll notice is that we aren’t going at anywhere close to racing pace; in fact the ride is structured to move only as fast as its slowest rider. With so many new riders rolling out their metal steeds for the first time in a long time there are bound to many stops along the way, both planned and spontaneous, but with so many new and happy faces around you’ll feel like the close to 10-mile journey was too short.
Our first planned stop will probably be some black-owned grocer, shop, cafe or restaurant you never knew existed and will become your new favorite spot. These black-owned businesses are often in neighborhoods with high car congestion but low foot traffic, and often show just how happy they are to have us by treating us to deals, cold water and beverages or even some fresh fruit and snacks for the crew.
On our way to our next stop you might notice the group huddle closer together as we try to get to another part of the city and the streets start to feel less bike friendly. While we often start our ride on or close to a bike lane or trail to build rider confidence, the plain ole’ truth is this: safe cycling infrastructure is often nonexistent, sparse, inconvenient or unmaintained in the communities where low-income families or people of color live. This is why we work to make sure that cycling in our communities is visible to show that there is a need to our cycling advocate friends like Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and the City of Atlanta.
The next stop is going to be an awesome community organization that you never knew existed that’s right around the corner of where you work, live or frequent. It might be a community garden selling fresh produce in East Atlanta. Maybe its an old school building being turned into a world class community center by a state legislator in the stadium community of Vine City. You’ll be itching to get involved and you’ll be glad they’re doing work that matters to you.
Grumbling about a hill and ready to give up? Luckily we have some inspiring stories to keep you pedaling. One of our veteran riders and core member might pull up to you and tell you about how she was incredibly anxious on her first ride — she’d just learned to ride a bike a few days before — but was calmed by a patient ride leader and completed her first bike ride conquering one of Atlanta’s busiest streets. Or one of our ride mama’s might tell you about how she brought all her ducks on a ride, none older than 13 with her daughter completing the ride after a downhill spill. You’ll be motivated. You’ll keep pedaling and you won’t be sorry.
The end of the ride is where its at. Everyone’s legs might be tingling but the energy is so high that many stick around — and for good reason. We’ll probably have fresh fruit, water or even some exclusive RBG popsicles or smoothies by a local business. Someone will pull out some blankets for an impromptu picnic. One of the several yogis in the group might lead the crew through a few asanas to stretch out our sore muscles and some sort of spirited discussion will breakout. After a while stomachs will grumble and legs will get a bit restless and invariably the remaining bunch will vote on a spot a good distance for one last ride unplanned stop to grab some grub. Continuing the ‘fuel, bike and repeat’ cycle cyclists know too well.
This brings us to the end of a typical Red, Bike and Green ride. With chapters in Chicago, New York and the home chapter in Oakland there are opportunities to get involved across the country. Checkout the group’s Indiegogo page to keep the community rides going and learn about how you can support the movement!