By Jake Lynch
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
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.
Photos by RTC
The ongoing transformation of Camden, New Jersey, is a terrific case study of what Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
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