As we begin a new year of free and inclusive community bike rides – starting with our Season-Opening Ride this coming Monday, May 3rd (meet at Big Ditch Brewing, 55 E. Huron St., downtown, 6:30pm start), we resume our weekly “Roll with” feature by spotlighting our partner in rides the East Side Bike Club (ESBC), which will begin its season of free and inclusive Saturday morning rides from MLK Park on May 15th, meeting at 9:30am and riding at 10.

ESBC continues to expand its reach and relationships with the likes of GObike Buffalo and Reddy Bikeshare, while always showing up for Slow Roll and finding ways to step out together in the community – learn more by asking anyone in a green ESBC shirt at Slow Roll and reading below from ESBC founder and Buffalo United Front president George Johnson.

How has ESBC grown since its founding? 

In the years since we were birthed from Slow Roll, East Side Bike Club has grown tremendously in terms of people participating and getting involved on the East Side of Buffalo, getting involved in the community. We’ve established a youth group and workshop, and connected with so many different community players in the biking industry. For instance, with Reddy Bikeshare we’re in the process of doing something with e-bikes to offer to our community this year and beyond. And Shickluna bike shop donates a lot of bikes to us to be fixed, making sure those are given to kids in the community who aren’t able to purchase a bike.

East Side Bike Club with kids from Peace of the City’s City Bikes club

How did ESBC get through 2020?

It was rather difficult because of Covid, but we were still able to ride following the protocols, with smaller groups. We played it safe and adjusted to whatever was needed, so we could continue to ride.

We often rode to Broderick Park, and at other times helped with the beautification. Some weeks I would welcome the riders at MLK Park then go work on Broderick Park, because we have a core group of people lead East Side Bike Club rides. Lori [Lozano] is one of our leaders, Damon [Kimbrough] plays an intricate part – he was the one that started leading most of the rides, now we we rotate the leaders. It’s bigger than me, making sure the group continues. Some folks weren’t riding bikes at all before they started riding with us, now they’re leading rides.

Damon Kimbrough leads an East Side ride in 2020 – photo by Fr. Jud Weiksnar

What are you most looking forward to in 2021?

We wanna try to get more riders to ride with East Side, and we want to concentrate more on the educational components of riding, make sure we involve the youth. We’re putting together a youth group to start with us and get to the point that by the end of the season, they’re able to ride a longer ride with us, 20-25 miles, build themselves up to that point.

We want our riders to be more involved in the community, with different things going on – cleanups, giveaways, be a part of the community and our youth to let them know they’re part of the community also. Especially with our mechanic shop, teaching them how to fix bikes – that’s something Rebecca [Reilly] looks over. We’re always looking for more mechanics to come help, teach the kids and everyone how to take care of their bikes.

We just wanna move forward – our first ride will be May 15th, meet at 930, start at 10 sharp, ride an hour or two depending on the route, usually done by noon. Anybody that wants to come and ride is welcome.