Bikes are more than just a mode of transportation for the East Side Riders bike club. Bicycles offer a sense of purpose, education, and community.
The club was founded 10 years ago to help the youth of Watts stay off the streets and out of gangs. In the ensuing decade, the club has transformed into a multi-faceted organization.
Nathan Ibnanez is the president of the kids group and says he spends almost every day with the East Side Riders. He says he gets to exericse on the bikes and hang out with his friends.
President of the entire organization, John Jones, uses the club as a means to better connect with the neighborhood through bike education classes, feeding the hungry, and weekly bike rides.
"We feel if we are getting these kids involved in constructive work with their hands, they don’t have time to go and be in a gang," says Jones.
According to the National institute of Justice, kids join gangs at a young age, usually between 11 and 15. Communities, not just classrooms, are a valuable resource in reaching out to at risk kids. This is the goal of the East Side Riders Bike Club.
"Some kids don’t have a choice and we want them to have a choice and opportunity," says Jones.
To continue their mission, the kids even published a book on why they love bikes. They recently had a book reading and signing to celebrate their hard work over the past few months.
Nathan hopes they will write another book soon because he loved working on this one.
Adults or children interested in the club are welcome to join if they're willing to volunteer for community service with the club and log a specified number of hours riding a bike.
For more information: http://www.esrbc.org/