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VOL. 133 | NO. 38 | Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sign of Community

Teens to lead bike ride through South Memphis

By Andy Meek

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Montavious Dean, a 16-year-old from Hamilton High School, and Sequoia Campbell, an 18-year-old from Grad Academy, are among 10 South Memphis teenagers who’ve been volunteering their time for a singular mission.

They’re a group of “ambassadors,” participants in Memphis’ version of the national Big Jump Project, and have since November been attending monthly meetings to learn how to build and improve soft skills like leadership development. They’ve also been learning how to ride and maintain bicycles, which are the focal point of the Big Jump effort. On March 24, Dean, Campbell and their fellow Big Jump teen ambassadors will lead a community bike ride through South Memphis.

They’ll be demonstrating to participants how to improve bike facilities as well as connectivity within the neighborhood. Stakeholders are calling the event the South Memphis Glide Ride, and it kicks off at 2 p.m. at the South Memphis Farmers Market at 1400 Mississippi Blvd.

Local teen ambassadors in the Big Jump Project have been using monthly meetings to learn skills like leadership development as well as how to ride and maintain a bicycle. On March 24, they’ll be hosting a community bike ride through the South Memphis neighborhood. (Brandon Dill)

Revolutions Bicycle Cooperative is a partner in the Big Jump Project. Revolutions executive director Sylvia Crum stressed that the ride is meant to be a “fun, easy-going” excursion, unfolding at a pace where riders can chat with each other.

“It’s a laid-back, slow ride through the neighborhood so that we can see the neighborhood, visit with each other and build community on bicycles,” she said.

But it’s more than that. Symbolic, even. To Campbell, the ride and the surrounding Big Jump initiative represent an attempt to “help people in South Memphis travel by bike and bring everyone together.” To Dean, it’s nothing less than “a great chance to make a difference here in Memphis.”

“The idea is we would have these teens be able to come – these teens who live and go to school in South Memphis – we’re training them to be safe and comfortable on bicycles in the hopes they’ll be able to help us lead these community rides that can have a chance to show off the amenities of the neighborhood,” Crum said.

Memphis was chosen by PeopleForBikes, a national organization, as one of 10 cities for the program that helps make the jump from having bike lanes put in and infrastructure and actually getting people to use it and feel comfortable riding around their city using that infrastructure.

“And so Memphis is unique in the Big Jump cities, because we chose an area like South Memphis, whereas a lot of the cities kind of focused on Downtown and tourist areas,” Crum said.

One of the goals of the Big Jump initiative is to double or triple bike ridership in specific neighborhoods. PeopleForBikes chose 10 cities out of 80 applicants in the U.S. to be a part of the project. Cities like Austin, Texas, Los Angeles, California, New York City and Portland, Oregon, join Memphis as participants.

In addition to the ride March 24, this spring Big Jump Project teen ambassadors will be encouraged to create regular neighborhood group rides to spread bike culture throughout South Memphis. (Brandon Dill)

The city of Memphis teamed up with Revolutions and The Works Inc. to form the ambassadors program to train teens in South Memphis as volunteers. Those teens are ambassadors in every sense of the word, from their promotion of the South Memphis neighborhood to learning how to advocate for better bike facilities and accessibility.

In addition to the ride March 24, this spring the ambassadors will be encouraged to create regular neighborhood group rides to spread bike culture throughout South Memphis.

“I’m proud of Memphis, because we looked at an area that hasn’t been treated very well over the years, with it kind of being cut off by highways,” Crum said. “The Big Jump Project has the intention to make South Memphis more connected to other parts of the city and then make it easier to get around the neighborhood itself, with bicycles as a tool and better infrastructure and better understanding of how to use that infrastructure.”

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