Jenny Brown has been bicycling since she was a kid, and now bikes around St. Paul with her own children. She was prompted to sign up for the Bike Grant Program after their family had all their bikes stolen.
“I put in a Google search for bike programs and Cycles for Change came up,” she said. “I had never heard of C4C before that. When I filled out the essay, I put my whole heart and soul into it, thinking, ‘Well, maybe this will get me chosen.’”
It worked, not only for her, but for two of her three children as well. They were all accepted into the program and attended orientation dates in May 2016. The Bike Grant Program is designed to support individuals as leaders on bikes within the bicycling community and as bicycles intersect with other community-based initiatives in the Twin Cities. For their community involvement activities, Jenny and her children attended the Youth Bike Summit as well as rallies at the Governor’s Mansion.
“We biked to Mississippi Market and bought dried fruit to bring to the mansion when they were protesting and we stayed for about two hours,” Jenny explained. “[On another occasion,] we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and dropped them off at the mansion. I have PTSD and anxiety and certain situations aren’t good for me so we didn’t stay long. Nekima Levy-Pounds was there in the middle of prayer. We stayed until the end of that but had to leave because of my PTSD. It was cool because it felt like we knew her since we saw her give the keynote at the Youth Bike Summit.”
Jenny and her two youngest children, Merika (13) and Landon (8), are continuing to bike around St. Paul post-Bike Grant Program for exercise, stress relief, and fun. And while doing so, are practicing skills they learned in the Bike Grant Program, while continuing to learn new things on the road.
“I never knew what those hand signals were,” Jenny laughed. “I would see people doing them but never knew what they meant. I also never thought I would wear a bike helmet. But I figured if I’m going to make my kids to do it, I better do it too. We biked to downtown St. Paul and Merika fell and she would have been injured if she didn’t have her helmet.”
Being on the road atop two wheels has given Jenny a different perspective of the road, her surroundings, and bicyclists, too.
“People from all walks of life bike,” she said. “I always had it stuck in my head that it was only the suburban white family that bikes. Definitely living here in St. Paul now and going to the Youth Bike Summit has changed what I had stuck in my head. The Bike Grant Program totally changed that. When I go biking now, I notice other bicyclists and they are waving at me and I wave back.”
One of the benefits of biking that people rave about—and one that often comes unexpectedly—is the mental health benefit.
“Just getting on the bike really helps me with my anxiety when I’ve been stressed out,” Jenny said. “I never thought about it in the past, but exercise helps, and biking is way more enjoyable than walking. With my PTSD and anxiety, if I’m upset, people can upset it more. And if I’m out walking with other people around, simply someone else walking can upset it. But if I’m on a bike, I don’t even notice the other people—I’m able to just let stuff go. For me, that’s what I need.”