Contributor Sophie McNeil added this piece to the Summer 2012 Find It In Fondren™ Magazine. See the full book online now.
Ask anyone involved with Jackson Bike Advocates the best way to get involved in the local bike culture, and you’ll get the same answer: “Show up!” It’s that thought process that has brought this three year-old organization from a group of three members to the group that has gained over 1,000 supporters. From monthly community rides to week-long “epic bike week,” JBA hopes to bring awareness to the needs of bicyclists in Jackson by building a bicycle culture and advocating for more bicycle friendly Mississippi.
The vision of an organization like JBA came from three women who knew they needed to take action. Melody Moody (current Executive Director of Bike Walk Mississippi), Lizzie Wright and Lacey McLaughlin knew that instead of simply wishing that Jackson’s bicycling culture and infrastructure would improve, they would have to change it themselves.
Originally called “cyclist revolution,” the first meeting was held in Laurel Street Park in Belhaven where they discussed ways to make Jackson more bike-friendly. Pub crawls, regular commuter group rides, and holding a “critical mass” at the end of every month were discussed and quickly took hold with many bicyclists all over Jackson.
Group rides were named “Jackson Community Bike Ride” to promote safety, good will and to harbor a positive relationship between bicyclists and motorists, while also encouraging others to follow the rules of the road. These rules, such as the 3-Feet-to-Pass law, have always been important to JBA and continue to be a major part of their advocacy, working very closely with Bike Walk Mississippi to promote policy reform on both local and national levels.
Locals and visitors alike are encouraged the last Friday of each month to join JBA on these community rides, which typically begin in Fondren at Rainbow Co-op and weave through various destinations, such as Downtown and Belhaven. “These rides not only bring together the many bicyclists of the Jackson area, but they also strive to support local business that make up the stops along the ride,” said Anne Welch, Acting Executive Director of JBA. “These rides are wonderful ways to meet your neighbors, great ways to get involved in the Jackson community, and always a ton of fun.”
JBA also hosts a variety of other events, such as trail clean up days to maintain the current trail behind Belhaven that is evolving into the Museum to Market Trail. Along with their monthly outing, rides are also organized to community events such as the Museum of Art’s Screen on the Green to lessen dependence on motor vehicles and to encourage safety in numbers. JBA also participates in large events such Mal’s St. Paddy’s Day Parade to promote bicycling and bike safety and its members have used the group as a springboard. Jackson Bike Polo was born from such members’ passions.
“We hope to continue to expand the biking culture of Jackson and help make Jackson a bicycle friendly city,” says Welch. “Come ride your bike with us. There are no weird rituals, paperwork, or fees. All it takes is you and your bike.”