Members of the East Side Riders Bike Club said their one part of their mission is to provide opportunities to vulnerable kids in South Los Angeles by steering them in a new direction. The ten year old volunteer organization has been doing work in South L.A. and Watts that focuses on keeping kids off drugs and from gangs through recreational activities, specifically bike riding said president John Jones III via his website esrbc.org. But just as important as keeping youth away from destructive activities, is the other part of their mission, to steer kids toward activities that help them enrich the communities in which they live.
“ESR aims to provide a comprehensive youth program that seeks to positively impact [things like] inadequate organized recreational outlets for local youth in the Watts area- a community that is rife with high rates of child obesity, asthma and other respiratory challenges amongst youth- lack of resources and lack of safe passage and travel” Jones said.
“This program encourages physical activity through bike riding for youth and their families. [Also,] while Watts is a very small community, there are clear gang-related boundaries and territories that limit the movement of local youth based on where they reside.”
Jones III founded the club with his father John Jones Jr.
“This was something him and his friends did as kids, rode bikes in crews around Watts, Huntington Park and South Gate,” Jones III told the Sentinel recently.
“When he introduced me to the idea I didn’t like it initially, I didn’t ride bikes and never had any that I can remember. Once I was convinced I told my Pops that we had to incorporate some of the things my moms had us doing all our life, helping others… feeding the homeless, helping kids, improving the community and later we learned about bicycle education and safety. We worked closely with WLCAC in Watts to establish a relationship with the Watts community. WLCAC was our only supporter in the early years.
“Each project came about from the love of the community and learning more about cycling…”
They also aim to teach personal development skills.
“[We want to] teach local youth lifelong personal development skills based on their own self-interest, in a way that is interactive and fun,” he said.
On Tuesdays the club hosts a weekly night rides from their meet up point near the corner of Huntington Drive and Rosemead Ave.
“We meet up around 6:30 and ride (kickstands up at 7:00 pm),” members explained.
“We typically travel near 30 miles and return around 10:00 pm.”
In 2012, Jones III was honored at the Multicultural Communities for Mobility’s (MCM) third annual awards dinner and ceremony, hoping, he said, that the award would help to “legitimize the work we do, so when we go out and advocate for bike lanes – it will give us more credibility.”
At the time ESRBC was founded, Jones had been concerned about the profound lack of safety for bike riders in Watts. The city suffered what many low income areas do, lack of resources like bike racks, bike lanes and bike paths. There’s also the fear of violence, something Jones and his organization is also trying to counteract.
“We have this thing we implemented with the police, the sheriff’s office, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, and the Watts Labor Community Action Committee, called Life Lanes,” Jones explained during an earlier interview with Bicycling magazine.
“Basically, it means gang members know not to bother folks on bikes around Watts.”
Other skills developed through the program, like physical activity for instance, in turn helps youth to develop new knowledge on health and wellness, contributing to a healthier community as a whole.
East Side Riders has a “slew of community events,” Jones III said.
“We will teach 6 BEAST classes at 4 county park this summer during Parks After Dark, 1 Boy and Girls Club and at the Gang Alternative Program in Wilmington, CA.
“This weekend we will be at the Women’s on Watts event at 9:00 am located at 103 and Wilmington it their 15th annual peace march around Watts.
“Every 4th Saturday of the month we meet at the Watts Civic Center to prepare sandwiches for the hungry at 9:00 am and ride around town feeding the hungry.”
For more information visit Facebook @eastsideriders or www.esrbc.org.