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