Posted by Tiffany Dixon 12/21/15, updated 4/26/17 by Meredith Reed
Yay Bikes! Journeys recount how Yay Bikes! is transforming lives and communities, from the perspective of those we’ve impacted. In this installment, we hear from board member Ray George about how his leadership with Yay Bikes! has changed the city he moved to and fell in love with 10 years ago.
MOVING TO COLUMBUS: “I had never ridden in a city, so it was completely magical.”
In 2007, Ray moved to Columbus from West Virginia for his wife to attend law school here. “She was in school so I had a lot of time on my hands…a lot of time.” To pass it, he befriended a group of retirees who happened to be avid cyclists, and they helped Ray overcome the fear he'd had since a bad crash at age 17. He eventually found himself alongside dozens of fellow riders in Downtown Columbus near midnight on a Monday Night Ride. The streets were empty, nearly silent as the group of rowdy riders breezed past old, abandoned buildings under the night sky. Ray was captivated; he was in love.
FILLING GAPS: “You don’t see the whole city unless you’re on a bike.”
As Ray became more involved with the local bicycling community, and began to explore regionally as well, he noticed that Columbus was lacking some things that made other cities' bike scenes sizzle—a citywide ride, for one, and a powerful bicycle advocacy group for another. Ultimately, he stepped up to do something about both.
Bike the Cbus was born out of Ray’s desire to get people out on bikes so they could really experience Columbus. “Every time you get on a bike, it’s an adventure. You don’t see the whole city unless you’re on a bike.” Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2017, Bike the Cbus introduces hundreds of riders each year to Columbus' unique and evolving inner-ring neighborhoods.
After working together on Bike the Cbus and several other initiatives, Yay Bikes! founder Meredith Joy invited Ray to join the organization's board in 2011. His natural leadership tendencies soon got him elected as Chair, a position he held through 2015. “I felt it was something I could do to help change for the positive,” he said of the experience. “Whether it’s for their health, the environment or something else, biking can be the answer. I see bicycling as the lowest hanging fruit to get people out of the car.” .
LEAVING A LEGACY: “Leading in this organization has shown me that small groups of people can make big change.”
Although others will say Ray is a natural leader, he sees himself as the creator of tools to help others create their own experiences, and always defers to the magic of the group effort. “I think my attitude has been to support programs or events that help change behavior,” he says. "I just want the organization to succeed." By all measures, it has, thanks in no small part to Ray's contribution (see more about that, below)!
A note from our Executive Director, upon Ray's resignation as Board Chair in December 2015:
It’s no coincidence that the ascendancy of Central Ohio’s Golden Age of Bicycling (in my estimation: right now, into infinity) coincides with Ray George’s move to Columbus 8 years ago. Because regardless Ray’s insistence on remaining behind the scenes, and the fact that most people don’t realize it: all of us in Central Ohio’s cycling community owe a debt of gratitude to this man. If you’re not yet inaugurated into the Cult of Ray, well pay your dues; read up on Columbus Rides Bikes; check out Tuesday Night Rides, a gravel grinder or bike camping trip; and get with it. I mean, can you imagine? Columbus didn't have a citywide bicycle ride before Ray! And because that’s just who he is, he rolled up his sleeves, got to work and made Bike the Cbus happen.
Then there’s the whole matter of Yay Bikes!, an organization that went from nothing to our region’s premier bicycle advocacy organization in just a few short years. Under Ray's leadership, Yay Bikes!:
- Launched a membership program that, 3 years later, boasted more than 850 members
- Hired 5 staff members and tripled our budget
- Brought Bike the Cbus into the fold, started Year of Yay! and created Ride the Elevator
- Prioritized the communications strategy that helped position us as the region’s thought leader
- Positioned the Board for its next transition in composition and leadership
But it is, as they say, the end of an era: after 4+ years as Board Chair, Ray George led his last Yay Bikes! board meeting last night.
We’d be devastated, of course, except that he’s agreed to stick around for a bit to serve as Immediate Past Chair on our Executive Committee, and he’ll carry on with leadership of Bike the Cbus, Ride the Elevator and other fun bike rides he will no doubt soon be dreaming up.
So things have changed, as they do, but some will stay the same. That’s right—you’ll find the two of us most Thursday mornings at Upper Cup Coffee from 7–9am just like always, dreamin' and schemin' and plottin' world domination. Come say hi!
To share your Yay Bikes! Journey, contact Meredith to set up a chat!