• Country

They Ride to Save Kids from the Gangs

By Adam Marsal

Everything began in Los Angeles, California, with a bunch of people installing ghost bikes beside the roads, to memorialize cyclists killed by a car. White painted bicycles placed at the sites of deaths are an eerie, haunting reminders for drivers to be careful around riders. About seven years ago John Jones III from Watts area organized a joint ride to commemorate his friend who died in an accident.

A lot has changed in the South Los Angeles neighborhood since then, in large part thanks to the bicycle club Jones and his family started, the East Side Riders. In the beginning they just delivered water and sandwiches to the poor people living in the streets. But slowly the original task grew up to a long-term mission.

The rides became a tradition, which should help those in need or less fortunate and educate all who seek to enrich the community. Beside that the ESRBC club is here to protect kids from gangs and drugs. The idea was to get the families back on bikes and give the neighborhood kids some other thing to do than just loitering around.

There are different motives behind each ride. There are rides for love, beach rides or now there’s going to be a great Christmas cycling day. East Side Riders keep the whole close-knit community together, they visit a lot of sport events or enjoy an ordinary barbecues or a visit to a local fire department. In summer they arrange eight-weeks-long workshops for kids where they can learn how to fix their bikes.

Around 2010, Jones decided to expand the club’s mission and advocate for bike lanes and safety classes. The bike lanes have changed the situation big time and a lot more people are taking up cycling.

The club implemented the so-called Life Lanes – safe zones where the gang members know not to mess with people on bikes around Watts. In the area many people are members of gangs, but when they ride their bike through the Life Lanes, other gangs don’t bother them because they know it’s something good for the whole community.

To learn more about the community visit: http://www.esrbc.org/