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In York City, boys on bikes unite neighborhoods

ERIN JAMES
YorkDispatch

In a city too often divided by neighborhood loyalties, a group of teenagers has banded together over the most innocent of childhood activities.

Dozens of York City kids, mostly boys, are taking to the streets on their bicycles.

Their group is deliberately mixed of boys from the city's south and west sides. There are members from Parkway — all neighborhood names sometimes associated with the criminal activities of York City's loosely organized gangs.

"It's all about getting together and riding bikes," said Najee Baskins, 16. "We're all trying to stay out of trouble. Trying to stay positive."

A good cause: These kids, the ones meeting at a central location before popping wheelies through the streets, said they don't want the reputations of their neighborhoods to define them.

"We are not violent people," 16-year-old Desmyn Braswell said Monday, as he stood among about 30 boys on bikes at Penn Park. "We're doing this for a good cause."

When someone wants to get involved, the group opens its arms to the new member, Desmyn said.

"It doesn't matter who you are," he said.

Desmyn unintentionally started the movement about two years ago, when he sent a Facebook message to a few friends about getting together for a ride.

As word spread, the number of bikers swelled. Today, residents and motorists might see more than 50 teens cruising in the same direction.

Parent approved: To a large extent, these are just teenagers who want to ride their bikes during summer vacation.

But many of them have embraced the positive feedback of parents like William and Larena Braswell, who are working to add some structure to the growing group.

"They're all good kids, not selling drugs or shooting guns," William Braswell said. "They're out here being kids."

His son, Desmyn, gushed about the positive reactions the biker boys have gotten throughout town — especially from older folks.

"We've got people taking videos of us, cheering us on," he said.

William Braswell, 39, grew up in York. He saw the effects of drugs and gangs. And he doesn't want his son succumbing to those influences.

Seeing his son and his friends doing something positive, "It makes me a proud parent," he said.

However, in a city of busy roads and few bike lanes, it's proving a bit difficult for these boys to stay completely out of trouble.

Avoiding trouble: Demonstrating their skills Monday, the boys weaved in and out of traffic, causing more than a few cars to crawl through a parade of bicycles.

Drivers don't seem to appreciate the club. Others warn the boys they're bound to get hurt or in trouble, Najee said.

On the roads with bike lanes, the group tries to ride within the lanes, Desmyn said.

The bikers need more bike lanes and smoother, wider roads, he said.

But, William Braswell said, the boys "need to follow the rules" and accept the consequences if they break those rules.

"I've seen y'all stop traffic," he told the group Monday.

— Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.