This article originally appeared on PlanPhilly.
Joshua Funches, 19, and his teenage friends love cruising Philly streets on their bicycles. But you won’t see them performing tricks and stunts in the middle of traffic like some of their peers.
One look at the awkward teens with their helmets and biker regalia makes it clear they’re all about safety.
“We’re going to make sure we practice safe riding within the group,” Funches, founder of a group called the National Youth Bike Council said on a recent afternoon as the group prepared to take a ride. “We’re going to try to stay [in a] single file line as we go on these streets.”
The group was preparing to take its first ride from the Please Touch Museum in Fairmount Park to Ace Adams Field in University City.
“We travel a lot and ride bikes, and that’s just something I love to do,” said Job Funches, 13, one of the bikers in the council and Joshua’s brother. “And since I am a youth, I want to try and stand out to other youth.”
Job is the crew’s youngest member. Before pedaling off, he read aloud tips for problem-free riding off his smartphone.
“Practice safe riding habits within the group so you can stay safe,” Job read. “So, please enjoy this ride.”
Then there was a call and response chant to kick things off.
“Youth Bike Council! We national!”
And they were off.
Joshua Funches’ drive to start NYBC came out of a desire to help young people. He recalled the inception of the council began with a question posed by him and a colleague during an event called Youth Bike Summit, a three-day national conference focusing on youth engagement through bicycling.
“What if we had all these different people that were passionate about bicycling and cycling,” said Funches, a member of the national summit’s steering committee, “and they’re all young… just come together and be one big council?”
The answer to that question is currently seven members strong, spread throughout Pennsylvania and across the country with one member in Seattle. Two are from Philadelphia and Funches, and his two sibling members, are from Blue Bell.
The group is still figuring out how this youth bike advocacy thing works. They don’t have an organized campaign to grow membership. So far their promotion is through word of mouth, social media, and now, group bike rides.
“We just want to engage the community,” Funches said. “Not a lot of people know about the National Youth Bike Council and its existence.”
Those who want to join the council can apply online. Applicants must be between the ages of 13 and 24, have some knowledge of cycling, have leadership skills, and be able to make the monthly meetings, said Funches.
After the ride
At Ace Adams Field, the riders reported back a fun trip although there were some questions about the efficacy of their chants. No one inquired about the group, they noted. Still, it was a branding success, they decided.
“I feel like we got our name out there just by chanting itself,” Lot Funches, 16, another member of the group and Joshua’s other brother, said. “It’s kind of hard to stop if we’re on a trail with other people walking.”
But Adiva Andrews, 19, an early member of the council, was already thinking of ways to improve the next ride.
“I think it was a good ride… and we can always improve,” Andrews said. “I got some things we can do better next time — maybe include one of those megaphone speakers.”
Funches said they’re planning another ride before the end of the summer.