People 2015: Two-wheeled Pied Piper Jonathan Braddick Wants Everyone on a Bike
In this week's Dallas Observer we profile 20 of the metro area's most interesting characters, with new portraits of each from local photographer Can Turkyilmaz. Click here to find all our People Issue profiles.
On a gloriously warm Saturday in the middle of February, Jonathan Braddick led another bicycle ride, and everyone on the Internet was invited. Around 500 people followed him, riding everything from rusty mountain bikes to overpriced Italian road cycles to fixies and, for one person, a cruiser with a blow-up doll in a checkered dress attached to the back.
Slowly, the parade of bikes cheap and expensive made their way down Riverfront Boulevard, following Braddick on his cargo bike to the next brewery.
“You look at cycling in general, when it comes to the sport, recreational side, it’s predominately white men, OK, and in the age of 30s, 40s and up,” says Braddick, who as a 39-year-old white man and mountain bike racer, fits that exact description.
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But the people who show up to Braddick’s bicycle brewery tours, as he calls them in the open invitations on Facebook, are anything but the snobbish, male-dominated cliques seen speeding around White Rock in their racing kits. On the brewery tours, the only common thread is that everyone has a bike of some sort and a fondness for beer. That’s how Braddick wants it to be.
“These are just people who are riding bikes to do something … most of them would probably answer to that effect. ‘No, I don’t consider myself a cyclist. I rode a bike to get to the brewery.’ That’s the way we should be thinking of riding a bicycle.”
In Dallas, where it’s more common to spend one’s weekend lounging on a restaurant patio than exercising, Braddick has created the perfect lazy bike ride, casual and slow enough for all skill levels, attracting people who are inclusive and friendly.
Braddick grew up in Dallas and Plano as a classic latchkey kid, he says, who rode his bike on city streets and trails early on and continued even after he got a football scholarship to college. He joined the Peace Corps before settling back in Dallas as an adult. Five years ago, he took a class on how to make cargo bikes, sold his car and co-founded Oak Cliff Cargo Bicycles with a friend.
The online-only company takes requests to build Dutch-style cargo bikes, the same type he lugs equipment on during his brewery tours. It’s not a job that can support him — he works from home in IT for a steady income — but the company engages his passion for casual and athletic cycling. On the activism side, he serves as a board member of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff and as president of the Dallas Bicycle Coalition, a loosely organized group that meets with city staffers every month to get updates on Dallas’ meager efforts to boost cycling in a car-centric city.
“I’m the president, but there’s no, like, bylaws or anything,” says Braddick, downplaying his role. He is proudest of his events, which bring hundreds of bikes to otherwise empty city streets a few times a year. He has led five brewery tours so far, along with a bike-in vegan dinner and film event last spring and historic Oak Cliff tours in the fall. The rides themselves are free and the breweries sometimes offer the large group Braddick brings in a discount.
After a brewery tour, he says, “I have had people come up to me and say, ‘I now have a core group of friends that I hang out with that I didn’t know the first time I showed up.” Braddick keeps his own bikes in a shed in his backyard. He shares his Oak Cliff home with his wife, and a baby is on the way. Braddick already knows how he will transport the baby around town. “It definitely will be a cargo bike. It will be one of mine, for sure.”
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