Share the Ride: Camden, NJ

Jan 25, 2018
by Brice Shirbach  



"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." - Herbert George Wells


Perspective is a powerful tool. I can remember taking the training wheels off of my bike when I was 3 or 4, and feeling like I could outrun anything on that wet lawn behind my parent's apartment. My love for two wheels was instantaneous. I also remember a few years later when my foot slipped off the pedals of my older brother's bike and in between the chain and the chainring shortly before smacking a tree and breaking off a chunk of my ankle. A painful lesson learned at age 6 doing nothing to diminish my love for riding bikes, albeit with a bit of a hiatus per the doctor's orders. Bikes have a profound affect of children as we are not only able to cover ground more quickly than what our short and stumpy legs are typically capable of, but we experience nature and its various forces in very simple yet thrilling means.

Then we grow up. We still love bikes, perhaps more than ever before. We also spend hard earned money on them. We obsess over how they can be better. We worship those who can ride on two wheels better than others. We do everything we can to make sure other people know how good we are at wheelies. We start interrupting our rides every 30 minutes to share minutia with the rest of the world. We obsess and spit poison at every nuance we can find. We spit poison at each other over things such as wheel diameters, batteries, and pedals. To be sure, a lot of that is actually kind of fun, and is to be expected when we invest time and money into something we hold so near and dear to our hearts. What a luxury it is to debate the merits of pedal assisted bikes, or to bang the drum of a wheel's diameter. But for much of the time, it's simply time wasted, and it becomes clear that we have lost some of that oh so important perspective we gained when we were just kids.

Obviously life is full of challenges regardless of one's socio-economic status and for most of us, bikes can be more than just a luxury: they can provide a bonafide solution to many of those problems. In places like Camden, New Jersey, consistently ranked as one of America's most dangerous cities in terms of violent crime statistics, this rings very true. The problem is, in addition to the cost prohibitive nature of purchasing and maintaining bicycles, many kids who do own a bike don't own it for long, as tales of bike theft are shared almost unanimously in the city that stares longingly at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia from across the Delaware River.

This year I decided to cross the Delaware and work with C.A.S.A. Camden, a youth development program and social service agency based out of the Guadalupe Family Services center, and bring Share the Ride to some young adults who are well along the path towards a bright future. These are people who not only deserve to experience the joys that come with riding bikes with friends, but also who are in need of a reliable form of transportation, be it to school, to work, or even to college. With the help of generous donations from the Pinkbike community, along with some volunteer work from Gerry Creighton, Rob (a.k.a. Rad Santa) and Lauren Everitt, Megan and Logan Shirbach, the Camden County Police bike squad, and CASA Camden, we were able to provide 10 young men aged 15-19 with GT Slammer BMX bikes, Kali Protective helmets, and bike locks from ABUS. A very special thank you to Kim Brennan as well for organizing the Share the Ride initiative globally for 2017, as well as Community Bikes and Boards in Haddonfield, NJ for building all of the bikes up.

Riding bikes is something that most of us can agree on as being one of life's greatest joys. It's full of nuance and sub culture, but at its core is a very simple joy. Two wheels, some pedal power, and go see the world. Bikes have brought many of us together into one giant global tribe full of kids of all ages. We have a culture that is very much our own, and discussions and passions that might seem odd to the uninitiated. Most of the time, our energy and attention is directed at things that can make riding bikes even better, or at the very least towards something we can all share a chuckle at. It's just those times when we seem to be taking ourselves and our community a bit too seriously that a dose of perspective and context is much needed, and I cannot thank the amazing people from Camden enough for helping remind me of that.

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A beacon of hope in one of America's most dangerous cities, CASA provides after school and summer activities for youth that are potentially at risk in Camden.

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It's often said that 80% of Camden is held hostage by 20%. Kids in that 80% want somewhere safe to go to, want somewhere that's supportive, want help with college applications, want help with financial aid, and want help with just talking to someone about their life.

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GT Bikes, Kali Protectives, and ABUS stepped up and got involved with Share the Ride helping to get these kids rolling safely and smoothly.

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Feel good vibes were the order of the day at CASA.

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Parents, volunteers, CASA employees, and STR recipients were all ears as the Camden P.D. went over safety tips for riding around town.

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Rad Santa was on hand, along with volunteers of various ages to share the love, and to make sure all bikes were dialed and that the kids knew the basics of maintenance.

bigquotesCamden is an impoverished area, so there's just not a lot of money coming into the city. The kids don't start out bad. They may not have the things that they need just to get by daily. Places like CASA are great because it keeps them off the corner, gives them something else to do. That's one of the things where we're trying to push, because unfortunately when there's not a lot to do, that's when the mischief starts and things of that nature. Getting these bikes means a ton to these kids. It's likely that nobody's ever done this kind of thing for them before. For you guys to do this; it's just a great program. It also gives them a chance to get to and from school maybe a little easier, maybe get a job to where it's a little further away from home. It helps them earn an income, and move away from the drugs and crime.Sgt. Larry Cox

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Sergeant Larry Cox of the Camden County Police, was on hand along with his bike squad to let the STR recipients know that the police had their backs.

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Tim Gallagher, center, is the assistant director of CASA and has been instrumental in helping hundreds of kids create a better world for themselves and the rest of Camden.

bigquotesBikes represent freedom to our kids. They represent opportunity and they represent the ability to get a job. Most of our kids, their parents are struggling to work two jobs. They have a car but they're using it all the time because they're at work. Our kids want to get jobs. Every kid that I work with asks me to help them get a job. A bike represents that freedom to go get that job and know that they have secure transportation to get to and from that job every day or to and from school. We have one of our kids who's consistently late for school because he walks there every day. He just can't get there on time. This bike allows him to now go and get to school on time, to be more productive, to not have to miss so many classes. Again, bikes here represent freedom, and they represent an opportunity that not every kid has in Camden. Certainly, most kids do not have bikes here, especially most teenage boys don't have bikes. It's a lot of little kids who have bikes, but by the time they're teens, they get stolen or lost or whatever. So, this is a huge opportunity for them.Timothy Gallagher, Assistant Director of CASA

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Three cheers for the power of the bicycle and the bicycle community.





On behalf of Pinkbike, Trailforks, and Share The Ride we would like to thank the Pinkbike community and all of our sponsors for their amazing contributions in 2017. Since its inception in 2013, Share the Ride has helped children around the world experience life on two wheels. Thank you for Sharing The Ride with us!

Author Info:
briceshirbach avatar

Member since Dec 5, 2013
125 articles

25 Comments
  • 29 1
 Great to see some of the funds donated go local here. Lived in the Philly area all my life. Never understood the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality that’s used as a thin cloak for bigotry in our society. One ride through Camdenand you can see that these kids don’t have bootstraps. Much praise to all who donate time and money to help these people. I gladly donate to share the ride every year.
  • 9 0
 These stories are as much why I come to pinkbike as seeing the DH WC results. This is how cycling can truly make a difference in peoples live's, and I think us bike nerds forget that from time to time.
  • 11 0
 Rad! - Just so RAD!
  • 4 0
 NICE WORK. I live not too far away, and kids in Camden don't get a fair shake. Thanks for working hard to give them something positive. I expect these kids to be smoking me on the trails soon. Smile
  • 6 0
 I Love stories like this. I still believe that the bicycle is one of the greatest tools to give a kid, or adult Freedom.
  • 3 0
 Great story. I work for a non profit that teaches bike safety and mechanics as well as giving every child a bike at the end of our program. I am constantly reminded that having a bike is a luxury that is out of reach for many people. On a side note, maybe not the best optics for the Camden Police to show up in full tactical gear when trying to make a connection with under-privileged youth.
  • 2 0
 Nice to see on PB. I live just a few towns over and grew up just a few blocks away. The smiles those kids have are rare in Camden, it's a very tough place to grow up. These kids will never be burdened with having to decide whether to go to Whistler or Moab for their next biking trip. They'll be busy deciding whether to go to school or stay home to watch siblings while their parent work. There are many good people that have almost no chance to succeed because whatever they work hard for is simply stolen from them. Hopefully these kids that deservedly received those generous donations use their new bikes to continue to rise up against the steep climb ahead of them. Whether it's to provide transportation to a weekend job or just make them smile and escape the harsh reality of life and put the same smile on their face as we get when we clean a slippery rooty section of a trail. Nice work to everyone involved!
  • 3 0
 Awesome, I so enjoy these articles on the positive impact share the ride has! Keep donating shredders or put it on your calendar to donate next season!
  • 2 0
 Just when ones faith in humanity starts to wander you read a piece like this. Frown has been turned around. Awesome all around.
  • 1 0
 Ya know, I got a chance to ride Fairmount park on the outskirts of Philly and I was really impressed by their network of trails. I swear we did a 26 mile loop and wasn’t sure if we ever crossed over the same trail.
  • 3 0
 What you are doing is making a difference. Great work.
  • 2 0
 The world needs more of this. Showing kids that people in their community care about them, goes a long way.
  • 3 0
 Great write up Brice.
  • 2 0
 Love these stories, love Share The Ride! Keep up the great work!
  • 2 0
 That got me right in the feels. Great story.
  • 2 0
 @briceshirbach you are a total gem!!! Thank you!!
  • 2 0
 Bikes for kids!
  • 2 0
 Great job!!
  • 2 0
 Well done guys!
  • 1 2
 Don't get in a sweat, I was just being ironic.. and the habitat you talk of, I may be in it myself, but just need someone to judge it...
  • 1 0
 Such an inspiration! Great work @briceshirbach
  • 2 5
 Is this a gang-sters to go-pro tale??
  • 6 3
 None of these kids are involved in gangs, period. They’re well to do kids who work hard to make life better for themselves in a place where the odds are decidedly stacked against them. Your ignorance and audacity is shameful.
  • 1 0
 @briceshirbach: I agree and welcome to Pinkbike comments.
  • 2 1
 @Myfianceemademedoit: I'm well versed







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