Mutual Aid Collaborative Launches Safety + Cycling Team

By Zeki Salah, Mutual Aid Collaborative Facilitator

On April 14th at 6:15 am, Juliet Jones received a call from her son and was surprised to hear a police officer on the other end of the line. He asked if she knew a man named Julien Jones. When she replied that Julien was her son, the officer notified her that he had been hit by a car while riding a bike to work and was on his way to the emergency room.

Julien resided in North Chicago and did not have an affordable way to get to work, leading him to use a bicycle and become seriously injured in his accident. When Juliet first saw Julien after his accident, he was bruised, unconscious, and required a cranial operation. She nearly fainted after hearing the news. Julien was in the hospital for three weeks, from April 19 – May 2. Then from May 2 – May 23, 2022, Julien received inpatient therapy at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab. He is out of the hospital now, but sustained a traumatic brain injury.

Reflecting on her son’s accident, Juliet, a 2021 Chicago Peace Fellow, wondered how much of this tragedy could have been avoided if Julien had worn a helmet, a thought that motivated her to launch a Safety + Cycling project through the Chicago Peace Fellows Mutual Aid Collaborative. Regarding her decision to begin the project, Juliet stated:

“Violence is violence. A traffic accident or bike accident are not the same as gun violence, but those accidents are violent and traumatic and I want to do something about that.”

Original Sixty Fourth Street Beach Drummers Leads the Charge in Distributing Helmets and Safety Tips

Juliet and her organization, the Original Sixty Fourth Street Beach Drummers, Inc. are now working with the Mutual Aid Collaborative to distribute helmets throughout Chicago. The Mutual Aid Collaborative is made up of 60 Black and Brown leaders and committed allies who live and work in the communities they serve on the South and West sides. They have raised over $100,000 to support several active projects, including the Safety + Cycling project. The Mutual Aid Collaborative met and collaboratively voted in May to provide the Safety + Cycling project with funding to purchase helmets and distribute them to communities around Chicago.

The Safety + Cycling project is focusing its resources on the South and West Sides of Chicago and aims to partner with community leaders in those neighborhoods to help distribute helmets. Their first event was at the 27th Ward Community Day on August 27. Juliet was able to find a table at the Community Day by messaging Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr., who she had previously met through her time as a Chicago Peace Fellow.

At the Community Day, Juliet was able to hand out 55 helmets:

“People were really excited and surprised they could get a helmet for free. Some people were on rollerskates, some people were on motor scooters, and they all got helmets.”

Juliet also brought other safe cycling activists to the community day by contacting the Chicago Department of Transportation’s SAFE Ambassadors program. Though the SAFE Ambassador’s typically work with schools to provide bicycle safety programs, Juliet contacted them and discovered that they do other community-based events as well. Together, both the Safe Cycling project and SAFE Ambassadors were able to make sure everyone at the event who was interested in receiving a helmet got one.

Juliet was very happy with their partnership and spoke to the way the two tables complemented one another: “When the SAFE Ambassadors didn’t have helmets that fit, they sent people to my table because I bought helmets of all sizes.”

On September 17, the Safe Cycling project partnered with Margaret Village’s Peace Fair. Margaret’s Village is a shelter which provides transitional housing for homeless women, children, and families that Juliet was connected to through her work doing HIV education and testing at a social services agency. Juliet spoke with Angela Hicks, the Executive Director of Margaret’s Village, at a planning meeting and offered for the Safe Cycling program and SAFE Ambassadors to be present at their annual Peace Fair. When Angela accepted her offer, Juliet planned another table for the Safe Cycling project and ended up giving away 28 helmets as well as other cycling accessories.

The future of the Safe Cycling project will bring even more collaborations between organizations to distribute helmets in their communities. So far, Juliet has used a range of connections to bring helmets and bike safety instructions to the South and West Sides. She hopes that in the future, she can find even more collaborators and bring more attention to the project. Juliet would like to continue expanding the Safe Cycling project to host an annual event. Through creating grassroots networks with the help of the Mutual Aid Collaborative, the Safe Cycling project has brought needed helmets to people who lacked them. Their work together has played a part in creating safer and healthier communities in Chicago.