HCP Partner Spotlight: Ride On! Community Ride Leaders Part 2 |  Justin Mondok & Kelan Bilal

HCP Members Participate in Multi-Day Yay Bikes! Community Ride Leader Training and Create Ride On! An Inclusive Bicycle Advocacy and Education Group 

By spring of 2018, the Healthy Community Partnership was about to have our training wheels taken off as we set out to begin our journey towards creating a healthier, more equitable Mahoning Valley.

Transportation can be a significant community asset, but it, or the lack of it, can be a significant liability. Making sure that people of all ages and abilities in the Mahoning Valley are able to get where they need to go safely, no matter how they are traveling, is a priority for the Healthy Community Partnership. This approach centered on mobility justice and public safety also provides opportunities to examine and espouse the benefits of active transportation, which “is any self-propelled, human-powered mode of transportation, such as walking or bicycling.”

Several of our partners are involved in active transportation advocacy for complete streets, or streets that “are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work.” 

Though popular in many cities, bicycling is not a preferred mode of transportation for many residents in the Mahoning Valley. According to research completed by Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, less than 1% of residents report bicycling to work. However, many residents who are without vehicle access for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because they are not yet of legal age to drive, rely on bicycling to get to work, to the store, to the playground, and to get home. Members of HCP believe that streets should designed to accommodate everyone. While we continue to work with community partners to encourage investment in policies and projects to ensure pedestrian safety, partners decided to demonstrate how to ride safely, that it is possible to ride a bicycle for short trips to work, to the store, to the park and home again. 

Enter Yay Bikes! Yay Bikes! is a Columbus-based bicycle education and advocacy organization. Members of HCP who had been involved in bicycling and active transportation advocacy efforts decided to step up to become “Community Ride Leaders” and participate in an intensive, milti-day interactive training with Yay Bikes! Experts. This training gave the four first Mahoning Valley Community Ride Leaders knowledge of current Ohio bicycle law and the skills and confidence to organize community rides of all sizes—from one to one hundred—to get people excited to ride, safely.

In celebration of Bike Month, the HCP May Partner Spotlight will introduce you to each of the four Community Ride Leaders, who are also the founding members of a new, local bicycle education and advocacy effort: Ride On!

Justin Mondok, Transportation Planner, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments

  • Why do you ride and/or why did you participate in the Yay Bikes! Commuter Ride Leader Training?

Growing up, my bike was my ticket to freedom. I rode everywhere rain or shine because it was easy, didn’t cost anything, and a fun way to hang out with my friends. As my career as a transportation planner has developed, I’ve made it a point to recognize that not just kids ride bikes and not just for recreation, but rather everyone rides bikes for a variety of reasons, whether by choice or need. The Yay Bikes! Commuter Ride Leader Training allowed me to gain the necessary perspective to apply to my work to make sure that those that need to use a bike for transportation have a safe place to do so. Streets are public spaces after all and public spaces belong to all of us. We shouldn’t require specific equipment or excessive economic commitments for people to get to where they want to go.

  • Why should others consider riding, especially for transportation?

There are three major benefits to riding a bike over using a personally owned vehicle – cost, environmental sustainability, and health. The upfront and maintenance cost savings of using a bike for transportation are immense and not only are you no longer paying for gasoline, you’re reducing your emissions and contributions to air pollution by not driving. On top of all that, the physical activity you get from a bike ride will help you meet the CDC recommended 30 minutes of active time per day. Lastly, bikes don’t only help your personal, physical health, but the health of your community as well. People on bikes build community by being seen as people and neighbors and not as someone speeding through a place in a metal box. This helps grow community connections and eventually improve things like business investment, crime, and infrastructure.

  • What can we do as a community to support current and future riders?

An excellent goal to strive for is to replace one of your weekly trips in a car with a bicycle. Whether it’s a trip to work, school, the store, or the library; shifting one trip to a bike will help you realize the benefits that come with it. Next, pay attention to how our current infrastructure treats people who walk or bike and engage with your City Councilperson or Township Trustees to suggest changes that would make those means of transportation safer.

 Kelan Bilal, Owner, Excalibur Barber Grooming Lounge; Founder CycWard Bicycle Group

  • Why do you ride and/or why did you participate in the Yay Bikes! Commuter Ride Leader Training?

I am the founder of a cycling group called CycWard. The reason I chose to create it is because cycling for me is mentally freeing. It gives me that 8 year old feeling where exploring your neighborhood was all that you have to do in life. I was excited when I heard about the Yay Bikes! Training because it came at a time shortly after another group I was with gave away bikes at all the city schools. The training was the opportunity I needed to learn how to be able to train kids, parents, and teachers proper riding safety and how to commute to and from school safely.

  • Why should others consider riding, especially for transportation?

Riding just gives you this amazing feeling. It helps minimize mental stress. It keeps you physically fit. It gives you a view of your city that you can’t appreciate in a car. Being able to ride to your local coffee shop, or grab some breakfast and not have to worry about parking is very beneficial. When I travel, I personally love to explore the city by bike. Especially in cities where traffic can get congested

  • What can we do as a community to support current and future riders?

Some good ways to help current and future riders are to advocate for safe riding street signage, talking to your local government about cleaning and paving the streets, and participating in group rides the involved beginner and veteran riders to help get people comfortable with riding with traffic. That will also keep drivers aware and get them use to sharing the road. That’s actually what we try to help do at CycWard.

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