Juneteenth round-up: Four Black History Bike Tour

By Gregory Powell

Juneteenth round-up: Four Black History Bike Tour

Greg Powell, an entrepreneur and Louisiana native, has a gregarious voice — you can feel his smile beam through a phone call. The son of a local legend of candy-making (Dardanella “The Queen of Pralines” Powell), Powell grew up in Shreveport, a majority Black city that he says is “filled with vacancies and not much for residents to do.” It stands in sharp contrast to its neighbor Bossier, an affluent, primarily white suburb filled with casinos, hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops. People rarely cross the boundary between the neighborhoods, says Powell, let alone get to meet each other or share their interconnected histories.

Powell started Social Bike Rides in 2019 as a way to bring these racially divided communities together. The organization hosts bike tours along the Red River Bicycle Trail, a more than eight-mile scenic river trail that connects Shreveport’s downtown to Bossier’s East Bank. Along the way, folks stop at Marshall Mural Mile, a beautification project funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and led by local councilpersons and artists. One of the murals, Once in a Millennium Moon by artist Meg Saligman, which envelops the AT&T building and was painted by a team of 11 artists and 565 residents, was once the largest mural in the world. The tour also travels through historic Black communities like Milam Street, where riders will see historic Black churches, houses, cemeteries, and schools, a statue of Huddie William Ledbetter, the famous blues and folk musician better known as “Lead Belly,” and the original KOKA-AM radio station location (the station still plays mostly gospel today).

Louisiana State Senator Royce Duplessis, Democrat District 5 (far left), enjoys a bike ride with Social Bike Rides while visiting Shreveport. Image credit: Social Bike Rides

Powell was inspired by Get Up N Ride NOLA, which was started in New Orleans in 2015 by community advocates Blake Owens and Nick Reed. According to Powell, their “Night Time Vibe Rides” — bike rides with music playing and lights threaded through the wheels’ spokes — are legendary (and have since been copied all over the world). The size of the group, the slow and social pace, and the flat terrain make them accessible to riders of all levels. Powell took those qualities to heart when designing his tours and bike rides in Shreveport and Bossier. Plus, he also rents out cruiser-style bicycles with lights in order to make joining a ride, even at night, easy. 

Powell started Social Bike Rides with a few thousand dollars and 12 used bicycles with occasional support from friends and family. Today, Powell hosts regular rides periodically as well as additional special rides and Black history tours. 

For Juneteenth, Powell will host a night ride on Saturday, June 17. Join them via this link.

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Be A Fan Week: SB Rides

By Social Bike Rides Admin

Be A Fan Week: SB Rides - SB Rides

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SHREVEPORT, La. - The Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau is hosting Be A Fan Week. Wednesday we feature SB Rides.

Be A Fan Week is the annual promotion of local attractions in Shreveport-Bossier, May 1-9. With nearly 30 total ticketed events and discounted experiences, locals and visitors are bound to discover a new place to explore or a new activity to partake in with wallet-friendly prices.

Similar to 318 Restaurant Week, attractions will offer deals on their entry fees and excursions and social media influencers will partner to host five ticketed events.

For a complete list of deals and discounts, visit


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Bike riding just got better with SB Rides

By Social Bike Rides Admin

Bike riding just got better with SB Rides - SB Rides

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So Your City's Getting More Bike-Friendly. How Do You Identify the Next Best Step?

By Social Bike Rides Admin

So Your City's Getting More Bike-Friendly. How Do You Identify the Next Best Step? - SB Rides

A few years ago, I wrote an article about biking in Shreveport, Louisiana. We had just implemented our first bike lanes, and I was excited about the progress that had been made in my home city, and how we were making Shreveport a stronger town.

The specific actions that excited me about the progress were (1) dedicated lanes for Shreveport bikers, (2) a public process that responded to feedback and accurately weighed citizens’ concerns, and (3) concurrent initiatives and events that brought awareness to alternative and active transportation in our community.

Two years later, the city of Shreveport recently implemented a second round of bike infrastructure. We found two low-speed streets downtown and implemented sharrows to designate the streets as a bike route, and we implemented a buffered bike lane along Marshall Street. The latter is one of our only slow speed entrances into downtown, and the closest thing to a complete street in Shreveport. These improvements have been complemented by new signage as well, designating preferred bike routes and how they connect to existing trails.

As an advocate for these improvements, I usually have a lot to say about why bike lanes are important, how they can be implemented incrementally, and how they can contribute to a strong fiscal future. Yet, one way in which the Strong Towns movement has affected me is in its call for humility. So, in writing this piece, I made it a point to seek out other opinions and perspectives from those who ride a bike regularly, or would like to but find very real concerns preventing them from doing so. I learned a lot, found inspiration in new places, and gained fresh insight on what can and will make Shreveport an even better place to ride a bike.

I hope some of the lessons I learned can work in your city too.


Education, Education, Education

Earlier in our community’s conversation about bike infrastructure, my advocacy efforts were mostly focused on pushing for bike lanes in useful locations. During that process, there was much debate on whether shared lanes (sharrows), bike lanes, or all-out complete streets were the answer. Do we go all out with an expensive but comprehensive solution right from the beginning that accomplishes all our goals? Or do we take an incremental approach that isn’t perfect but makes use of the funds we have?

While not everyone agreed on which course to take, the more I engaged in dialogue with people, the more one core concern kept emerging: we all felt education of drivers and cyclists regarding the rules of the road was imperative. Getting bikes and cars used to interacting at reasonable speeds with each other respectfully was one of the most important issues, and had to be addressed.

What educational measures would improve biking the most in Shreveport? I don’t have the perfect answers, but I was able to begin brainstorming what that would look like. Some great thoughts came from Gregory Powell, founder of a new group called SB Rides in Shreveport. The first thing Gregory said was this: Not all drivers know that bikes are legally allowed on the road. And, as more infrastructure goes into place in Shreveport, these drivers might mistakenly see bikes as only allowed on the sidewalks or on designated bike routes. We need to take care in educating the public that bikes are still allowed on the road (except for freeways of course) even in the absence of a designated bike route. This is one area of concern that where I actually agree with my friend’s view (who could be categorized as a vehicular cyclist) that advocates should take care to highlight a bike’s right to the road.

Another potential solution from my conversation with Gregory came from those protecting human lives on a daily basis: police officers. In Shreveport, many officers patrol on bike, and a few recently helped a resident who had their bike stolen. Police know the rules of the road—could they be part of the education solution? Gregory thought so, and while we didn’t discuss specifics, I agreed that a police force educated on bike safety and rules of the road would be a great step forward in education.

There are a few graphical ways your city could educate drivers as to the safety needs of those using alternative transportation. Gregory’s group puts out flyers for their social rides (Figure 1). Another friend, Chris Lyon, helped to create a billboard (Figure 2) for a bike group educating drivers on how to drive by bikes on the road.


Just Have Fun!

When it comes to safety, there’s one more piece that should be a part of the conversation: there is safety in numbers. The more bicyclists are seen on the road, the more cycling will become an active part of people’s experience, and the safer it will become. So how do we get more bikes on the road? Create opportunities to ride just to have fun! There doesn’t need to be a contest about whose bike is the nicest, or who can ride the fastest. You just need to create an environment where people enjoy biking with others.

A conversation over coffee with Gregory Powell gave me some new perspective on this important point. While the group I’ve ridden with off and on for the last four years does organize “slow rolls,” there are still folks who prefer an even more casual environment. In fact, many people who want to ride a bike may not own a bike. So, this local group rents bikes (beach cruisers to be exact) and has filled the niche of offering rides to very casual riders who may not own a bike.

Gregory’s group SB Rides added another fun thing to their rides, too: lights on the rims and music playing! This makes for a really fun atmosphere, and brings attention to the riders so drivers will not overlook them. On their rides, they go very slow, and make it a point to stop by different events happening, support local restaurants on their way through town, and find routes with the least amount of hills.

I’ll end this thought with a story: when I was first getting involved in the biking conversation, I met with one of Shreveport’s city engineers who helped design bike infrastructure in Shreveport. He helped out greatly in the process; however, we had a conversation in which I learned that as a kid, he almost got hit by a car on a bike, and hadn’t been on one since! It opened my eyes to the ways people could think about riding a bicycle, and the hesitations they might have.

There’s a good chance there are many folks who feel similarly about biking in your community. So support or create a group ride where folks reluctant to bike can take the “next best step” that fits them.


Bike Repair Stations and Wayfinding Signage

I’ll end by returning to some of the physical pieces of biking “hardware” that have been beneficial in our community. It’s not just about space on the streets! Some of the commuters I know appreciate bike lanes and sharrows, yet they note that the lack of bike storage, repair spots, and showers in their offices can be just as big of a hindrance to using a bike regularly as high speed roads.

One fairly popular addition in Shreveport has been our “bike repair stations”. These small stations cost about $1,200 and have been installed at several parks. These stations have the tools needed to change a tire, fix a spoke, or tighten up your steering. According to the frequent riders, these have been very popular.

In addition to the bike repair stations, the city has also added along way-finding signage along the bike routes in Shreveport. This is one more example of how the public process conducted by the city has been responsive to community feedback. During the first phase of the bike lanes, community members brought up signage as a need. The City of Shreveport has its own sign shop, so they took the time in the latest round of bike infrastructure to install signs to help Shreveporters navigate their city on a bike.

These actions are just some of the small steps we’ve taken to improve biking in Shreveport. Strong Towns has inspired us to ask ourselves: what is the “next best step” in Shreveport to make us a stronger town? I think we’ve been successful in applying this mindset to active transportation, and I hope you can apply it in your city too!


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SB Rides Brings LED-Lit Bike Outings to Shreveport-Bossier

By Social Bike Rides Admin

SB Rides Brings LED-Lit Bike Outings to Shreveport-Bossier - SB Rides

Greg Powell, a young entrepreneur who is the son of well-known local candy maker Dardanella “The Queen of Pralines” Powell, has introduced a new, LED-lit bicycle group ride in downtown Shreveport. The group goes by SB Rides, and you can find them on Instagram at @sb_rides and on Facebook.

Unlike many local cycling groups, SB Rides is not designed for hardcore or experienced cyclists. In fact, it’s designed to appeal to folks who don’t even own bikes. For $30, riders can rent one of Powell’s “lit” bikes and join in a casual, two-hour cruise around downtown Shreveport. An upcoming ride on Sunday, July 14 will depart from J.O.S.H. Lounge at 8 p.m. and ride to Louisiana Daiquiri Cafe and back, with a stop for water – or, uhm, anything you may like to drink – at Louisiana Daiquiri Cafe on Texas Avenue. Sunday’s ride is limited to ages 21 and up, and tickets are available via Eventbrite. Other upcoming ride dates include July 25, Aug. 2, Aug. 11, Aug. 20, and Aug. 29.

Why LED-lit bikes? It’s a New Orleans thing, it turns out.

“We are emulating similar groups in New Orleans,” Powell said. “I did a lit bike ride in New Orleans back in November, and I thought it was a good business model. I thought there was a market for this in Shreveport.”

Powell’s first-ever ride – with 15 available bikes – attracted 13 customers, a pretty great first outing. The bicycles themselves are beach-style “cruisers” without complicated gear or brake systems. All of the bicycles are decked out with LED lights. One bike has a Bluetooth speaker that plays music for the group. Powell is, understandably, pumped about his new business.

“I’ve bought every single LED bicycle accessory in this entire city,” Powell said. “Seriously, I have them all. I literally bought every light that they had at Bikes, Etc.”

As for the ride route that travels from J.O.S.H. Lounge to Louisiana Daiquiri Cafe and back, Powell says that “there’s a little uphill climb on the way out, but when you ride back, you’re coasting the whole way.”


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