Always a very civic minded guy, for New Jersey's Akram Abed (right) the connection between bikes, trails, and making a positive impact in the world was first forged by the most unfortunate of circumstances: a flat tire.
As a youngster cruising around his home territory of Camden and Philadelphia, flat tire after flat tire would disable his only form of transportation and make getting around difficult and time consuming. After flat tire number 15, young Akram decided he needed to learn how to fix these things himself. He eventually found his way to a community bike garage run by Philly's Neighborhood Bike Works.
"I never forgot the spirit of the place," Akram recalls. "They made me see how such simple services have a huge impact on the real, day-to-day lives of people in our cities - for actually getting them on a bike, getting them to work or school, giving them that freedom. Biking, and knowing how to repair a bike and keep it working, really empowers a person in a real and measurable way."
Akram is all about real life impact. Born on the West Bank and raised in Camden, he studied international relations at Brown University with the idea of a career in international development or diplomacy. After a period working for local nonprofits, however, he began to see the need for that kind of energy right in his own backyard.
"In a lot of ways, Camden is like a developing nation," he says. "It has the same need for creative solutions, for ideas to improve the landscape and empower local residents."
He first partnered with RTC last year as a volunteer on the Camden County BikeShare program, and his work with encouraging young riders in the area made him the perfect fit to join our North East Regional Office in 2012 to continue building the very cool Camden Youth Cycling, Learning & Exercising program (CYCLE). Thanks to our friends at the Campbell Soup Foundation, the CYCLE program is leveraging the simple joy of young people pedaling around their neighborhoods to grow support for trails and bike/ped connections throughout the region.
His enthusiasm for biking is contagious, and by inspiring his fellow Camden residents with the endless possibilities represented by better transportation options, he is making a real and lasting impact in the city he calls home.