Jefferson Award Winner Founded Rich City RidesBy Sharon Chin

RICHMOND (KPIX 5) A man who moved from New York to the Bay Area wondered why he didn’t see as many people riding their bicycles in his Richmond neighborhood. So he created a program that’s transforming his community.

Volunteers learn how to refurbish old bicycles to give away at a new bike hub they’re decorating at Unity Park. It’s the work of Rich City Rides, the nonprofit Najari Smith founded seven years ago.

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“I wanted to see people getting together on bikes doing something healthy. A way of celebrating our city,” he said.

Rich City Rides has repaired and given away more than 1,200 donated bicycles to underserved kids and families in and around the city of Richmond.

Eleven-year-old Jakorey Robinson got his first bicycle.

“It was exciting,” smiled Robinson. “You get to race your brothers and friends and cousins.”
Kids also learn maintenance and repair at the Rich City Rides bike shop, a retail cooperative Smith helped start.

Fifteen-year-old Dynel Bailey has developed confidence using his skills to serve others.

“People that don’t know how to fix bikes, I can help them fix (their) bike,” said Bailey.

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And once a month, the group rides to a different local park to clean up.

“This our way of giving and providing stewardship to the park,” Smith explained.

In addition, participants gather for weekly Sunday rides for exercise, and students like Dynel form school bicycle clubs, inspired by Smith.

“He’s like my uncle to me,” Bailey stated.

Bike shop co-founder Taye McGee says Najari has created a powerful vehicle to bring neighbors together.

“We all are like this nice knitted family,” noted McGee. “Not by blood, but forged through bicycles.”

“We use bikes as way to reclaim our streets, and reclaim our health, and reclaim our togetherness as a community,” Smith reflected.

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So for building a bicycle community for health, fun and service, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Najari Smith.