The Pedal Project

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Michael Herron, a 31 year old former prison inmate and drug peddler is now peddling his way to work in San Diego, California.

This is made possible by Pedal Project, a program that donates refurbished bikes to ex-offenders as a means of transportation. Before Herron had a bike he was taking the bus or bumming rides from friends because he couldn’t afford a car or a $72 monthly bus pass.

Several ex-cons and people who help former prisoners re-enter society related that not having reliable transportation makes it difficult for ex-offenders to have a way to gPhoto courtesy businessinsider.comet to job interviews and workplaces.

When Steve Shia, a retired corrections officer and teacher commuted to Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility, he experienced a need prisoners have when they are released. Shia taught secondary education and helped young offenders prepare for college at the San Diego-based correctional facility. His commute required him to bicycle from the border trolley to his job. Shia also noticed that his car repair expenses were cutting into his salary. The situation made him aware that when prisoners are released from prison they usually don’t’ own a vehicle to dependably get them to work or even provide transpiration to look for a job. Shia was motivated to create a solution for released inmates to have a means of transportation when they enter the work force.

Ex-prisoners being provided with a way to commute to work are not the only advantage of peddling to work. They are provided a way to contribute to society by preserving the environment. Ex-prisoners also have the opportunity to improve their physical well-being while catching up on outdoor time.        

Shia had heard about a successful bike-share program in Reno, Nevada, so he took a detour on the way home from a ski trip from Lake Tahoe. He presented his research at a reentry roundtable meeting when he returned.

Shia’s proposal was well received by the Reentry Roundtable members. Former temporary employee prisoners at the Center for Employment Opportunities in San Diego were polled and agreed the bike-share program is a good idea. 

The Rock Church in Point Loma helped launch the Pedal Project by gathering bike parts for the organization. Reentry Roundtable housing and transportation committee rallied with bike organizations to take the program on the road.

A grant to pay a hands-on bike repair instructor and volunteers to refurbish bikes and teach bike safety recruitment was underway when the group was established in 2011.   

San Diego Second Chance, a back to work program that assists ex-prisoners with transportation needs, provides free bus passes for reentry participants who are unable to ride a bike or prefer to take the bus

Eddie Pree, a La Mesa resident who's involved in an alternative-probation program with the Center for Employment Opportunities, said the bike program makes sense for people who are fighting to get their lives back on track.

Shia and Roundtable members foresee Pedal Project inspiring other criminal justice related organizations and community members to reach out and incorporate more bicycle programs into their reentry curriculum.