02/13/2018 07:00AM ● Published by Robert Frey
Da Berry Bikes Have ArrivedBy Patrice Doucet
There’s something about riding a bike that brings you right back to your childhood - listening to the sounds of the neighborhood, seeing friends and neighbors you might not normally see, being with family without the usual distractions and feeling connected with your community. With a breeze on your face, it’s a feeling of freedom.
Envision da Berry, a not-for-profit creating partnerships to advance a brighter future for Iberia Parish through work in several sectors, is providing bikes as a resource for getting around the city. Da Berry Bikes is a program through da Berry Fresh Market that began in January giving bikes to those in need of mobility, while renting some to visitors.
Carl Cooper Jr., Envision Da Berry President and Market Manager, says the idea came about when a loyal supporter of the da Berry Fresh Market offered to donate some 70 bicycles for adults and children. As the bikes are refurbished, with the help of volunteers like Mario Sowell, they are given, on a first come, first served basis, to residents restricted by lack of mobility. Visitors and others interested in seeing the city by bike can rent one of the dozen or so that are available for the day and as long as a week for tourists.
“The bike program will bring a stronger economic base and break barriers within, and outside, the community. It’s about getting different cultures to open up in dialogue,” says Cooper who recalls childhood memories of riding his bike with friends up and down the hills of his native Georgia.
Studies have shown that cycling is not only an excellent source of exercise, it enables people to interact socially and feel more at home in their local community. More people cycling and walking provides additional opportunities for social interaction on the streets, strengthening neighborhoods and enhancing a sense of community.
Cooper says money from the bike rentals will go towards funding initiatives in the works at the Market, including mats for upcoming yoga and meditation classes. There are also plans for developing a book club at da Berry Market – all the kind of strategic grassroots intervention programs first envisioned by da Berry’s first president Phanat Xanamane.
Xanamane, Envision da Berry’s Chairman of Housing and Arts - as well as Entertainment- says he sees Envision da Berry creating more of these low-risk, low budget platforms for neighborhood engagement and partnership building. “From that point, we engage with new partners to figure out ways to scale up the work and make more of an impact,” he says. “Transportation has been a major issue in the community for a long time, especially on New Iberia’s West End. We hope to bring more mobility for those in our community who have relatively low access to it. This could also be a great resource for tourists who visit our area. The best way to see our fair city is on bicycle.”
Whether you’re a visitor taking in the views of the city or simply pedaling to get around town,w seeing it from a bike brings a new prospective. And, there is much to see in New Iberia. Cooper suggests starting with the West End park as you leave by bike from da Berry Market, then head downtown riding along the banks of Bayou Teche. There’s New Iberia City Park, the famed antebellum home Shadows-on-the-Teche, the home of Pulitzer prize-winning author James Lee Burke’s grandparents, where he spent summers, the Rodriguez museum, great restaurants, and the Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes, built to commemorate veterans, to name a few attractions.
Other biking adventures include New Iberia’s new 3.5-mile bike trail, finished in January, that begins at Church Alley, running along main street through downtown and residential historic districts.
To make the experience easier for visitors, New Iberia bike routes can be accessed from a Bicycle Suitability Map now on Google Maps.
Such a simple technology of pedaling a bike has the power to remind us of our youth and improve our quality of life. Maybe that’s what famed author H.G. Wells felt when he said, “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.”
Da Berry Market, located at 520 Hopkins St., is open Wednesday through Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and is a combination of a fresh produce market and job training center- and now a place to hop on a bike.