Born and raised in Ssutheastern D.C., John Shackelford has been riding bikes ever since his first job as a burrito delivery boy. Now, he is working to share the joy and benefits of cycling with others.
Smiles4Miles is a nonprofit organization dedicated to donating bikes to children in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color. Now living in Bedford Stuyvesant, Shackelford believes that bikes can bring positive changes to communities that have historically lacked access to cycling as a method of transportation, exercise, and recreation.
“Bikes can help with mental health, physical health, and they can even be a source of income,” Shackelford explained. “If I can spark an interest in another generation of kids to pick up cycling, that would be amazing.”
The nonprofit works alongside other community organizations to hold events that connect local residents with donated bikes. Smiles4Miles has handed out thousands of bikes in Brooklyn and is now embarking on a national tour to donate bikes nationwide.
Shackelford and his team have already held events in Baltimore and D.C., and he is planning multiple stops throughout the South. Already, the effects of their work have become clear.
“We have seen that cycling could be deeper than the ride itself,” Shackelford said.”We believe that if we can dedicate even a little of our time to this, then we can make a difference.”
Back in New York, the Smiles4Miles team is also happy to see that cycling is getting more attention as a whole, even if the city’s bike infrastructure still needs improvements and expansion.
“Back when I started riding, cycling was a really underground thing,” Shackelford explained. “Even though the city is sort of doing the bare minimum to support cycling, it really comes down to the community and if people advocate for more bikes, bike lanes, and bike safety in their neighborhoods.