In Reading, PA, Using Bicycling As A Revitalization Tool

Jul 6, 2016

 

Every day, dozens of kids and teenagers gather at the Reading Bike Hub.
Credit Marielle Segarra / WHYY

On a Wednesday evening, about 30 people — mostly kids — sit poised on their bikes on a street in downtown Reading.

It's 6 p.m., and they're about to head out for their weekly ride through the city.

A man in a white t-shirt goes over some safety rules.

"Be aware of your surroundings," he says. "No stupid stunts, none of that. And please stay together."

With that, they take off, to the tunes of Marc Anthony's "Vivir Mi Vida," playing from speakers on the back of one guy's bike.

Around the city, people sit on their stoops and wave. A driver honks his horn and gives the bikers a thumbs up.

Every week, these rides leave from the Reading Bike Hub, a bike shop that opened two years ago and is run by volunteers. It's part of a push by Redesign Reading, a nonprofit group trying to revitalize the city using something that's a necessity for a lot of residents: biking.

"Reading's poor, and a lot of the people who live here are poor, so riding a bike is how they get from place to place," said Dani Moetze, special assistant to the executive director at the nonprofit. "It's how they get to work. It's how they get their groceries. It's how kids get to school."

The bike hub fills a need for affordable bikes and parts, Moetze says. It also occupies a formerly vacant building in a city battling blight. But maybe more than anything, it's a refuge for kids in an area where there's a lot of gang violence and drug crime.

Find more of this report on the site of our partner, Keystone Crossroads