Written by Patricia Gutierrez
The Better Bike Share Partnership (BBSP) is an effort led by the City of Philadelphia that works to ensure that Indego is accessible to all Philadelphians. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is a non-profit advocacy and education organization working as part of the Better Bike Share Partnership to support bike share and biking education. Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by the JPB Foundation.
Scrolling through Instagram for the hashtag #RideIndego, it won’t be long before you come across photo evidence of Indego Ambassador Ella Best’s great community outreach work in South Philadelphia. Whether it be organizing community rides or taking individuals on a ride to the grocery store, Ella is doing her part to make sure that everyone in her community knows that Indego is for them.
Ella was born and raised in South Philadelphia. She is a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a student, the CEO of nonprofit “Don’t Shoot… I Want A Future,” and — most recently — an Indego Community Ambassador!
She officially joined the Indego team in April 2016, but participated in her first Indego community ride back in the summer of 2015. Her close friend and fellow South Philadelphian Kim Smith was a 2015 Indego Community Ambassador and organized a ride for members of her church. Ella came out and rode with her granddaughter and it was Kim who eventually suggested that she apply to be a 2016 Ambassador.
For Ella, becoming an Ambassador just made sense. Always an advocate for her community, she sees Indego as a great transportation option for folks who don’t own cars as well as a way to get your heart healthy. She was also quick to the see the connection between her work with “Don’t Shoot… I Want A Future” and the work she could do as an Ambassador. Both represent an opportunity for her to connect her community to more resources.
Ella started “Don’t Shoot… I Want A Future” seven years ago. Her and a friend came up with the name in response to the amount of young people losing their lives due to the gun violence in Philadelphia’s streets. A couple of her friends from childhood had lost sons to gun violence. So, Ella decided to do something about it.
“[The idea is] ‘Don’t shoot me, so I can live and go on to have my future .. college, school, get married, have children.. Just live my life without having to duck from bullets.’ So that’s what we did. We would meet at the playground at a certain time every Saturday and the kids would come [and play]. We would even have books for the kids to read.”
What started as an effort to create a safe space for kids to be kids became much more when Ella started to think about all the different things that children need to succeed in life. She started organizing a back-to-school drive and by the end of the summer she had collected enough donations to give away hundreds of backpacks with pens, pencils, notebooks, hand sanitizers, and tissues.
“This way we could help out the parents, take that burden off of them because a lot of people don’t have the money to buy school supplies.”
But, “Don’t Shoot… I Want A Future,” isn’t a one-woman show. Ella relies on the support of her family and friends. They have made the back-to-school drive an annual event and they run a year-round basketball camp that her husband leads. This is the first year that Ella is considering putting the back-to-school drive on hold until next year, and instead organizing a live concert with a focus on food, fun, games, and prizes for the children.
Another 2016 first for “Don’t Shoot… I Want A Future” was the recent Summer Fit Fest, a community festival about building a healthy lifestyle. All the food provided was fresh fruits and vegetables, and the festival kicked off with a Bike Safety class and an Indego group ride! Indego Street Team members also attended to answer any questions people had about Indego.
Temperatures were high, but the 10 riders didn’t let that stop them from getting their fitness in. They rode from 22nd & Tasker to the Schuylkill River Trail and back. The riders were of all different ages, with the youngest being only five years old (and riding their own bike).
The Summer Fit Fest is just one example of the how Ella is helping connect her community to Indego. Aside from organizing official rides and classes, Ella spends much of her time talking to friends and strangers alike about the joys of riding Indego. For her, it all comes down to being personable and making connections.
“If you’ve got the [Indego] shirt on or a pin, or if somebody sees you on [the bike] they’ll stop you. I stop mid-way and explain. I’ll even give them my phone number to call because I don’t care about crank calls. I’m trying to get people to sign up. It’s definitely good networking.”
What stands out the most for Ella are Indego’s pricing options. She tells her friends and coworkers that at $15 a month is very affordable and even beats the price of a weekly TransPass. She has been especially excited to share Indego’s new Access Pass, which gives ACCESS Card holders the option to pay $5 for an monthly Indego pass. Once she clears up the misconceptions people may have about the pricing, she finds that most folks are excited to sign up, but there is still one more thing holding them back.
“They want to sign up, but they want to learn more. A lot of them are afraid that they won’t know how to ride. They haven’t ridden in so long. A lot of them are just scared. I’m athletic because I played basketball all my life and I’m just always moving around, but for a lot of people, I think their fear is that they’re not that athletic.”
When she hears people expressing those fears, Ella is very encouraging and reminds them that she is always willing to take her friends out for some one-on-one training on Indego. Luckily, there are other opportunities for folks to gain some bike skills and get comfortable riding in the streets, too. As part of the Better Bike Share Partnership, Indego partners with the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia to provide safety classes and learning opportunities for current and future Indego riders.
We are only halfway through the Indego Ambassador season and Ella has already done so much. Keep an eye out for her in South Philly and on social media using the hashtag #RideIndego, she’ll be sure to be doing great things.
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