photo – Kevin Joseph of Purelements in front
By Jason Linetsky
According to New York City’s Department of Transportation Cycling in the City program, approximately 900,000 residents cycle through the boroughs regularly with over 510,000 trips made every day. The creation and expansion of CitiBike rentals, residents looking for alternative fitness ways, and more bike paths made across the boroughs have helped to increase ridership over the last 15 years.
As a competitive cycler, Kevin A. Joseph, Co-Executive Artistic Director for Purelements An Evolution In Dance, saw the sport as “an additional route to connect with the community that was just as accessible as art.” He worked with Purelements to create Bike East, a 20 mile cycling tour that passes through East New York, Brownsville, Canarsie, Seaview and out to Riis Beach then back to Gershwin/Sonny Carson Park.
“Bike East was born out of a need to instill self-care, to combat generational trauma by taking care of ourselves and to see and celebrate the resiliency of our community while riding a bike,” stated Joseph. “The tour concludes as a finish line block party. A blocked off street with performances on a stage, post-ride snacks, tents with vendors and music from a local DJ. Bike East strives to utilize the healthy attributes of cycling as a health and community asset as well as empower and revitalize members of East Brooklyn communities and beyond.”
Joseph explained Bike East is “built on four pillars of impact”:
- Representation – Creating space for Black and Brown athletes to thrive.
- Community Empowerment – People working together on common challenges.
- Cycling Advocacy – Introducing cycling as a recreation option, a commuting option, and/or as a sport.
- Healthy Lifestyle – Health is a basic necessity in order to progress in life.
Since Bike East’s inception in 2014, Joseph has worked to strengthen his bond with citywide cycling organization Bike New York (BNY), who holds the annual TD Five Boro Bike Tour. The race spans 40 miles crossing all five boroughs from the Battery Park, Manhattan area up to the Bronx, across to Queens, down to Brooklyn and ending at Staten Island’s St, George Ferry Terminal.
“BNY has provided human resource support, learn to ride classes for children while the riders are on their tour and additional marketing via their website and social channels. They realized their entry fee to participate in the Five Boro Bike Tour may be a financial obstacle for low resourced communities. We have always believed in free access to ride throughout Bike East. Since Bike East has been canceled for two years in a row (2020 and 2021) due to the pandemic, BNY reached out to Amazon to support Purelements’ community of riders to still be able to ride together in the largest tour in the world. We were able to secure VIP access for 20 cyclists, which usually comes with a $350 fee, via the BNY website.”
Joseph will be working with BNY CEO Ken Podziba over the course of the next year to expand the partnership beyond the Five Boro Bike Tour and Bike East as they begin to plan out their respective 2022 events. While new activities and goals haven’t been set yet, one thing is certain – BNY will continue to help provide opportunities for Bike East riders to join the Five Boro Bike Tour, and provide assistance to them and their families during the tours.
“I am excited about this new level of partnership with BNY. To be able to provide access to a healthier lifestyle for our community and to create space for Black and Brown cyclists/athletes warms my heart. I believe and hope we discover new ways to partner over the course of this year. Partnerships which add on more events for Bike East to be even more successful by providing more access and ways for our community to discover deeper parts of themselves through cycling.”
For more information about Purelements, Bike East and how to get involved, go to: http://purelements.org/.
For more information about Bike New York and the Five Boro Bike Tour, go to https://www.bike.nyc/.
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