Boston Bike Story: Jamie Kennedy

What is your bike story?

My bike story would probably start with my dad. He’s been a big influence, because ever since I was little he’s always been biking. He was the one that taught me how to ride a bike in one of the Blue Hills parking lots, and I remember it being super liberating to learn how to ride it.

When I really started to get involved with bikes was when I was like 13 or 14 and found Bikes not Bombs. When I first came here, I started as a volunteer. I was too young to actually work, so I took the program and started volunteering, got my own little BMX.

I had the fortunate experience of going to a very resourceful high school. It also meant that I felt very isolated from the community in a lot of ways, and so Bikes not Bombs was a great way for me to be able to connect to that and feel like I was still staying in touch with who I am and where I come from, and what I wanted to represent. I didn’t really have the words to describe what that meant at that age. As I grew older, I started to realize more of the reasoning behind that and why it was so important for me to be a part of that community, especially somewhere that is so accepting of so many people from all different types of racial situations or gender orientations or whatever you want to call it.

I truly do believe that the bike can connect people and that’s a part of why I ride.

What do you mean that biking is liberating?

As a kid, it can feel very constraining to get around different places. So once I learned how to ride a bike, then suddenly it was like, “Oh my God, I can go where I want, and I can adventure how I want, and I don’t necessarily need my parents for that, or I don’t necessarily need any money for that. I just need my head.” Bikes not Bombs helped even more, because then I got the mechanic side of it and then I really didn’t need any money, because I would know how to fix most of the problems. It kind of just opens up a whole world to you at a young age.

What do you think of the biking culture in Boston?

I think the biking culture and Boston could obviously be stronger. I don’t think there’s enough push from the government or societal factors or whoever it may be to make it biking as accessible as it can. There can be a bit of a divide in terms of the biking community. By the divide, I mean we have some people who ride around out of actual necessity, and the classic white man that you see with like the racing uniform on and the super nice expensive bike. And I think there could be a little more unity and sharing in terms of who gets the resources to bike.

How could that gap be bridged?

There need to be more accessible bike paths. Like in Newton, Cambridge, JP and some other parts of Boston, I feel like there are pretty good bike paths and pretty good places to ride around, but communities like Roxbury and Dorchester seem to have less. And so if I’m a parent trying to let my kid go out on a ride— any age person trying to ride — you might not feel comfortable.

What advice would you have for people who want to ride in Boston, but haven’t started yet?

I think in general a good philosophy in life is that you’ve got to try things that make you uncomfortable sometimes, as long as they’re not harmful to you. And riding a bike can be really healthy for you. It can have a lot of benefits in terms of your body and your mind and all that.

I also think — like I was saying, it’s a super liberating experience — so I’d say that it can be kind of life-changing in ways that you don’t know. For me, it’s been a long journey to get there, but it’s such a free feeling to be riding on a bike. In a world where we have so much pollution and so many problems with our environment, I think it’s a great alternative way to help save our planet and save ourselves. 

What do you mean by save yourself?

We’re all a part of this world. If I’m putting out those negative emissions, carbon emissions and all that stuff, we’re ultimately going to be hurting ourselves and hurting our children.

I think biking can save yourself in that way, but it can also save yourself in terms of like, if you have trauma you’re going through or anything like that. Riding a bike can really calm your mind. If I’ve had a big fight or something, being able to just take off and ride on a bike can feel really good sometimes. If my mind is feeling super jumbly or anything — I’ve been doing meditation, but sometimes just sitting down isn’t the vibe I’m in the mood for — so taking off and riding on a bike feels good.

What’s your relationship to your bike?

When I was younger, me and my boys used to name every bike that we got. We talked about our bike like it was a person, like it was alive. I remember my boy had a bike he used to call Iceman. And it was a dope bike, so we used to always talk about Iceman. Mine, I just used to call Samurai because it was a Shogun bike

My bike that I currently have, my relationship is actually not as positive as it could be. I just had four bikes stolen, so now I’m riding an old Bianchi that I had when I was younger. I haven’t really kept up the care in it, so that’s why the relationship with it isn’t so positive. I feel like the relationship with your bike should be like it’s your steed or whatever you want to call it, your whip. You need to take good care of it.

But then again, in the back of my mind I was like, “You know what, [the thieves] probably really needed a bike, or needed money or something. And I hope they’re riding it, taking good care of it, or that whoever they sold it to, I hope they’re taking good care of it. Because ultimately, I’m in a position where getting a bike is much easier for me because of Bikes not Bombs. I wish they would have asked, but obviously no one thinks to ask like, “Oh, can I steal your bike, is that okay?” If someone legitimately asked me if they could have my bike, I would ask them, “What are the reasons that you want it?” And if it seems reasonable, then I’d probably give them my bike, or be like, “Come to [Bikes not Bombs’] earn-a-bike, and you can earn your own. I think everybody deserves to have a bike, and an opportunity to get around on it at the very least, because it really does mean that you can get anywhere within a 5-mile radius. Even if you’re not like a great biker, it’s still doable.