East Side Riders (ESR) is a Compton-based club that teaches people how to ride their bikes safely in LA, and hosts events for kids and families. John Jones III launched ESR in 2008. Once a month, members distribute food for unhoused Angelenos as they roll along the streets.
“We learned that there was ways to not only teach people — kids, and adults — how to ride bikes safely on the street, but to also bring drivers out of their cars and take some of these bicycle safety classes. So then when they are driving their cars, they know what to look out for,” Jones III tells Greater LA.
When the club was founded, one of the first things members did was ride through the community for hours, and on their handlebars, they carried bags filled with water, homemade sandwiches, and chips. Those bags were meant for unhoused residents. “We wanted to make sure we stayed in the communities that we lived in and serve the homeless in our community.”
Things are slightly different now — they no longer make the sandwiches, but instead give people the supplies to make their own. “It just got a little bit better than when we first started. It’s a little more coordinated, we know exactly where we are going, we know the routes, and to be honest, from 14 years ago to now, our homeless population has probably quadrupled.”
Recently, the Los Angeles Times found that LA County Sheriff’s Deputies are stopping cyclists of color in low-income neighborhoods for minor violations and searching them. Jones says that was true 14 years ago but is happening less now.
“It was a tool used to pull over people who were just going back and forth to either work or to school. It was a tool. Stop and frisk. And I think it’s gotten better over the years. We know it’s still happening in low-income communities and that is why we’re here. We’re here to … change that agenda, do work with the police departments, and show them that [they are] regular folks going back and forth to work, going back and forth to the store. This is their main mode of transportation.”