Adam* is a public school student who lives in the Northside neighborhood of Pittsburgh—a place where the lack of public transit has long made it hard for him to get around. But when he received, through a partnership with his school, a free bike, helmet and lock, that began to change in a major way.
“Since he has been able to bike home … he has been given a burst of new energy, freedom, and independence,” Julie Mallis —director of the program that made Adam’s bike gift possible — told Sustainable Cities Collective.
Mallis leads Positive Spin, a program that partners with Pittsburgh Public Schools to provide over 300 students with access to bicycles and lessons in bike mechanics. Positive Spin is a local initiative of Marilyn G. Rabb Youth Empowerment, a national nonprofit focused on helping young people overcome the social and economic obstacles that face them.
None of the kids in the program had access to functional bikes before their enrollment in Positive Spin; in fact, about 15 percent of them had never ridden one before the nonprofit gifted them with their new wheels. After ten weeks in the program, Positive Spinners can not only ride their bikes, but fix them, Mallis says.
But the skills students hone in the program don’t stop there. As part of their discussion around why cycling is important, the young enrollees recently shot and directed their own rap videos about the environment.
No positive spin is needed in ticking through all the reasons why Positive Spin is great for young people and their communities: it’s empowering and encourages physical activity, ownership, and a sense of freedom all while fostering a love for a green means of getting around.
*Name changed for privacy reasons.