Camden, N.J., has suffered for the last few decades from insufficient investments in it businesses and public spaces, resulting in high poverty levels, high obesity rates and nutrition issues, especially among young people. RTC’s ongoing transformation of Camden demonstrates our commitment to building broader, more connected urban trail networks that serve a wider range of Americans and reduce transportation gaps in underserved communities.
Camden Pop-Up Bike Clinics and Community Rides
RTC’s Pop-up Bike Clinic program encourages kids to get out their "broken" bikes from basements and backyards and get them rolling and stopping again. RTC staff and local volunteers travel throughout the city and set up near trails or in parks to “crank” out repairs for patrons, many of whom are children.
The program goes beyond repairing the bikes; through observation, the kids learn how easy it is to “wrench on their bikes” (make repairs), and parents who drop by are enlisted to assist with more simple repairs, when appropriate.
During the pop-ups, we also discuss places to ride and find out what the community would like to see happen in terms of safe places to walk and play—all while eating delicious fruit. After the bikes are fixed, staff and volunteers lead a community ride to explore the neighborhood, nearby trails and cool parks a short ride away.
- 2014: 315 bikes repaired at seven sites during 15 events. Five volunteer mechanics donated 284 hours, which was almost as many tubes that were replaced—289!
- 2013: Eight clinics held throughout the city, 280 bicycles repaired
- 2012: Two clinics held in North Camden, 80 bicycles repaired
Camden Youth, Cycling, Learning, Exercising (CYCLE)
Since 2006, we have been working with local partners in Camden to create an improved biking and walking network in the region, and educate and train youth to be users and stewards of trails. Hundreds of children engage in bike-repair workshops, destination rides and educational programs designed to raise awareness of how they can get around on two wheels and by foot.
Watershed Education by Bike
The Watershed Education by Bike program launched in the spring of 2013 by RTC and local partners as an afterschool program in three Camden City middle schools. Kids aged 11 to 14 participate in riding and learning events designed to teach them how different factors affect the watershed and ecosystem, and consequently, their own lives. In the summer, the program transforms into a day camp, with rides increasing in length from their afterschool counterparts.
In 2013, 77 students traveled by bike along local waterways—some trips totaling 35 miles. For many, the program was eye opening; none of the students had stood in a wetland prior to the program, and only five had ever set foot in a Camden waterway. Many participants also reached destinations by bike and trail that they never thought possible before, such as New Jersey’s capital, Trenton.
In 2014, RTC passed management of the program to the YMCA of Burlington and Camden Counties, which continues to positively impact the lives of children in the Camden area. A detailed Watershed Education by Bike Resource Guide documents the program’s successes and provides extensive information for other local organizations to design similar programs.