People: Ed Miner serves cyclists on the South Side
Ed Miner once rode his bike from his hometown in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Alaska.
"It was really difficult," Miner said. "I was kinda surprised at how far it was."
That's because he was simply venturing to Alaska, Michigan, a nearby small town. But the 20-mile roundtrip ride – completed on his blue Schwinn – was an accomplishment for the high school kid, who soon fell in love with cycling.
"I like the solitude of it, I like the rhythm of it [and] I like to be able to just think and clear my head," Miner said.
After attending Adrian College, Miner spent about a year working at a bike shop, which inspired him to invest in better bikes and gear. After moving to Atlanta to study theology at Emory University, he was able to ride year-round. He biked to school and challenged himself with longer distances.
Miner kept riding after settling on the South Side of Columbus, where he pastored a church. After working jobs in the mental health and foster care fields, he now makes his living in the cycling industry. He is executive director of Bikes for All People, a nonprofit organization formed in 2014 by Church and Community Development for All People.
"The observation was that we see lots of people riding bikes on the South Side," Miner said. "They're riding to work. They're riding to school. They're riding to the store. … And there's no bike shops south of I-70 until you get to Canal Winchester."
Bikes for All People fills that void by providing affordable bikes for adults and free bikes for kids age 17 and younger, in addition to offering repair and maintenance services and hosting weekly rides. The bikes are donated by a variety of sources, including churches, stores, individuals and even campus landlords.
The bikes are refurbished by the staff, which includes Miner, the sole full-time employee, and volunteers. Since its inception, Bikes for All People has given away an estimated 375 kids' bikes - 100 are distributed on Christmas each year -and 250 adult bikes to a variety of neighborhood clientele.
"It's a place where very different people come together for a shared need," said Austin Hill, who sits on the organization's board and lives in the neighborhood. "That need crosses socioeconomic barriers and racial barriers. That's very important on the South Side because Parsons [Avenue] is kinda this invisible dividing line between the haves and have nots."
That diversity is sometimes reflected on the organization's Sunday rides, where groups travel distances from four to 24 miles and visit coffeehouses and community gardens throughout the city.
Bikes for All People is specifically interested in helping kids in need. The organization has partnered with Franklin County's arm of President Obama's "I Am My Brother's Keeper" initiative to serve middle school-age African-American boys from at-risk neighborhoods.
"They spend about five or six weeks working on a bike [and] getting it ready to ride, and then we spend the last week or two going out on rides in the neighborhood, showing them how to ride safely on the road," Miner said. So far, he has worked with approximately six groups of boys.
Additionally, Bikes for All People encourages South Side residents to attend community meetings and advocate for better biking conditions.
"There's not been a lot of infrastructure change in this neighborhood, partly because I think the advocacy organizations that exist in Columbus don't have much of a presence here," Miner said. But some plans are in the works.
"I know there's a project to create some bike boulevards going North-South … to be able to get through the neighborhood in a direct way without having to ride on Parsons, so that's a good thing," Miner said. He'd also like to see some East-West infrastructure, especially considering kids who will need a safe route to the new Driving Park Community Center Pool next summer. "We have visions of all these kids riding down to the pool on Whittier [Street], which is not the best," he said.
"I think the voice that we have to offer is a different voice from the other ones that are speaking up in the community, and I want us to be part of that conversation," he said.
Day Job: Executive Director of Bikes for All People
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Current neighborhood: Beechwold
Currently listening to: Led Zeppelin, Wilco and Bob Dylan (in the shop)
Favorite restaurant in Columbus: Village Coney and Smith's
Favorite movie: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "The Incredibles"
Favorite TV Show: "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" and "Atlanta"
What was your favorite children's book? "The Butter Battle Book" (from my kids' childhood)