Written by Randy LoBasso
The Better Bike Share Partnership (BBSP) is an effort led by the City of Philadelphia that works to ensure that Indego bike share is accessible to all Philadelphians. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia is a nonprofit advocacy and education organization working as part of the Better Bike Share Partnership to support bike share and biking education.
The Better Bike Share Partnership is funded by the JPB Foundation.
Alan Lomax was born and raised in North Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion area. He has been cycling and encouraging others to cycle for most of his life and recently joined our team as a Better Bike Share Ambassador. I recently sat down with Mr. Lomax to talk about his life and what motivates him to promote biking.
Could you tell me a little about your background with riding bikes?
Well, I became a cyclist back in the day when I was like 50 yrs old because I had gained some weight. I saw myself getting out of shape and I used be a track runner in High School. You know when you get out of high School, you stop exercising and you tend to get lazy and start gaining weight and the weight is not good for your body. So one day I decided I would get a bicycle. One of my neighbors told me they had a bike they wanted to sell me and when I went around there and looked at the bike, I was like, Wow! I’ll buy it. It was silver, chrome, I mean it was pretty.
So I started riding and I got more and more into riding and I saw for myself that this was good exercise and I saw myself losing weight, getting more healthy and breathing more. Then all the children in the neighborhood would see me and want to ride with me. So they would ask their moms if they could go with me to the park and I said sure. I would take them out around the park and the baseball diamonds and they would all want to race me and I would say: ‘You can’t beat me.’
So you didn’t start biking until you were 50?
No, no… We used to have a club when I was in my 20’s, The North Philadelphia Bike Club, but I stopped biking for a while.
I hear you were also involved with the Cadence Youth Cycling program in its early days
I heard about the Coors bike race and ran into Ryan Oelkers, who ran Cadence and he told me he wanted to do a program in Strawberry Mansion and I was like no problem. So we met and I actually got on the board of Cadence and helped find space for the equipment. You know, I just want to keep the children healthy and motivated and their families active.
So now people in the community come and still ask me, if I can help them buy a bike or with fix their bikes.
Did you see yourself becoming a resource for the community?
Absolutely. I like to take the oldest child and show them how to fix their bikes and then tell them to show the others. I like to bring positivity and motivation.
I’ve had adults asking about bikes and I help them, too. That’s my passion to get people riding and keep people healthy.
You live in Strawberry Mansion?
Yes. All my life. I’m involved with an organization called Friends Of East Park. They are involved in a lot of things in the area, Mander Rec, Smith Playground. The garden, summer camp, East Park Revitalization Corporation. We all collaborate together on different things.
Why did you decide to become an Indego Community Ambassador?
Actually, I was praying for something to happen like this. I wanted to get more involved in cycling again. I started seeing all these bikes and I was like ‘WOW’ my blessing was answered. So I just wanted to get involved in it, because that’s my passion. I could just ride all day long and promote the bicycles. I love it. It gave me something to look forward to. If you don’t have a bicycle, you can just use Indego and ride and enjoy life.
What kind of impact do you think having bike share stations in Strawberry Mansion will have in the community?
It will have a big impact. A lot of people don’t have bicycles. Some of them, like I said they come to me and ask me where to get a bike. If you put them there, they will be used.
So tell me about what your plans are for outreach in Strawberry mansion?
Getting other organizations involved, like faith-based organizations and senior groups. I’d also like to work with some of the youth groups. You have to be 16 to ride, but there are groups that include that age bracket. A lot of seniors can ride and use the baskets to go to the market or wherever. So they can be free and go where they want to go. You can ride in North Philly. I want to do a group ride and get all the people together that want to ride with me. Our community has been a nice community over the years.