This West Philly Resident Is Launching a No-Cost Cycling Group for Black Women

Iresha Picot's Black Girl Joy Bike Rides — which begin on April 23rd — aim to promote joy, self-care and a sense of community.

Iresha Picot, a West Philly resident and licensed behavioral therapist, is the founder of Black Girl Joy Ride Bikes. / Photographs courtesy of Iresha Picot

Philly has long been a biking city, but the local cycling scene has been booming the past three years. For instance, Kelly Drive saw a 471 percent increase in riders from March of 2019 to the same time period in 2020. This is all thanks to the early stages of the pandemic, when more and more folks turned to biking as a means of transportation, exercise, and respite from lockdown’s monotony.

Such was the case with Iresha Picot, a West Philly resident and licensed behavioral therapist who goes by “Iresha Da Hood Therapist” on Instagram. Picot says bike riding was a major part of her childhood — she grew up in Franklin, Virginia — and tells me that her mother biked as her only means of transportation. “She’d drop me off at daycare by bike,” she says.

During the pandemic, Picot found herself with more free time and started riding again — she had lost touch with the hobby as an adult — along MLK Drive with Indego bikes. “Biking brought me so much joy and touched on my inner child, gave me a better appreciation for nature, and allowed me to move my body, which was so good for my mental health,” she says. “It also gave me something to look forward to, especially during a time when days were bleeding into each other.”

But when Picot invited friends to join her, she realized that some of them didn’t know how to ride a bike. “It was then that I thought that one day, I’d like to be able to teach my friends how to ride a bike or start a bike-riding group,” she says.

Iresha Picot uses Philly’s Indego bikes. 

This past November, she was awarded a $2,000 Community Green Grant from Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)’s Deeply Rooted Collaborative, a program that seeks to “increase community-based nature initiatives and improve health in Black and brown Philadelphia neighborhoods.” Picot tells me she’s using the funds to launch a weekly cycling group called Black Girl Joy Bike Rides in the hopes of getting more Black women on bikes and in community with one another: “The grant allows me to buy Indego passes for up to 10 women through the fall. I’m able to outfit them with helmets, and have a trained cyclist teach anyone who needs some brushing up or hasn’t been on a bike in a long time.”

The first community ride is set to happen on Sunday, April 23rd from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m., starting at Belmont and Parkside avenues. Outings will occur weekly and are free for attendees. If you have your own bike and want to ride in community with others, Picot says you are more than welcome to join and to just show up. You can also contact Picot via Instagram DM or email for more information.

“I would love for this to be a nice act of community care,” Picot says. “We all hear ‘self-care,’ but a lot of people either don’t know what that actually means or have a difficult time prioritizing it. I think self-care done in a community setting can lovingly hold people accountable to show up for themselves. I hope these joy rides do that — people need people. I hope we build sisterhood, and that people feel good moving their bodies and have fun doing it.”

Philadelphia magazine is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and economic mobility in the city. Read all our reporting here.