Justice on Wheels

by Kiran Herbert, Communications Manager

On July 17, youth will hit the streets of Chicago for a 15-mile community bike ride that will explore themes of transformative justice and transportation equity.

In 2020, Family Matters hosted a community bike ride dubbed “Black Rides for Black Lives.”


Based in Chicago, Family Matters’ mission is simple: Build a more equitable society for all. Although the nonprofit works with everyone from families to other community organizations, its focus is on developing leadership amongst youth in after-school programs, helping identify and uplift their gifts.

“We know they have gifts, that’s a given,” says I. Ashaki McClain, director of Family Matters’ teen girls program. “It’s about using those gifts to strengthen the ones that are maybe not as strong.”

McClain believes that youth need to determine what initiatives they take on, depending on their passions, and her teen girls have identified health and wellness as points of interest. They are focusing on things like self-love, safety, walkability to the park and transportation. Since biking is a form of transportation available to their youth, Family Matters joined forces with The Recyclery, a local educational bike shop, to empower them to learn more about riding and fixing up bikes.

In 2019, the organizations decided to host a bike ride in order to raise awareness around issues relevant to their kids and the local community. The first ride focused on restorative justice, with a strong learning component, and last year, following the murder of George Floyd, everyone wore black for a ride dubbed “Black Rides for Black Lives.” This year, a Justice Ride” is scheduled for July 17 at 10 am and will center on transformative justice.

“This ride is about the direction we’re going in, towards healing, restoring what was often never in place for people of color, and creating a whole new way of being just,” says McClain. “We center young people because they’re the ones we want to embody this new reality. That’s how it transforms the future—they understand it, they live it and they grow it.”

BBSP is proud to have given grant funding in support of the event, which will include speakers and performers at points along the 15-mile route. At each stop, youth will explore themes of transportation equity, restorative justice, and how they might cultivate social change. Anyone 12 years and up is welcome to participate in the ride, which will include a free lunch.

“We’re going to have a through-line from stop to stop, where people perform and share what transformative justice is for them,” says McClain, noting that the funding will allow Family Matters to pay folks for their time. “We’re constantly asking our young people to volunteer and share their thoughts. They know money makes the world go round and it’s important to compensate them and let them know their time is valued.”

The ride will take place in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, an eclectic part of the city with a diverse population that includes dense refugee communities. In order to remain inclusive, Family Matters has partnered with riding groups and community organizations in neighborhoods throughout the city, as well as translated its registration page into Spanish. The route itself was determined to ensure large, safe spaces with ample parking, as well as sites that hold significance to the subject matter being discussed (for example, an International Baccalaureate School will be the setting for a conversation about transformative justice in education). 

“It’s set up so that there’s time to sit, experience, reflect and then ride,” says McClain, noting that the ride begins and ends in Willye B. White Park. “We’re not telling people the route because that’s part of the fun of it.”

Complimentary Divvy bike share bikes and Divvy e-bikes (while supplies last) will be available upon request. For Divvy, this partnership is a great way to introduce people to its Divvy for Everyone program, which offers $5/year memberships for those who meet income eligibility thresholds and/or receive SNAP, WIC, LIHEAP, Public housing assistance or federal student aid (Divvy also offers discounts for students). The e-bike option helps also make the event, and bike share in general, more accessible to certain riders.

In order to ensure there are enough bikes for and food for everyone, Family Matters asks that riders register in advance. If you’re interested in volunteering, email volunteer@therecyclery.org.

The Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by The JPB Foundation as a collaboration between the City of Philadelphia, the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) and the PeopleForBikes Foundation to build equitable and replicable bike share systems. Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram or sign up for our weekly newsletter. Got a question or a story idea? Email kiran@peopleforbikes.org.