Southland bike enthusiasts are gearing up for a free 10-mile cycle ride through South Los Angeles this Sunday. The annual event promotes healthy living in an area that offers limited food choices.
Event organizer Shuntain Thomas has paid a painful price for years of enjoying lots of fried, fatty foods. Two years ago, he suffered a heart attack on New Year’s Day — the following year the father of six had a stroke. He was in his early 40s.
“Going to sleep after you ate a double and triple cheese burger," he recalled. "That just caused my cholesterol to go up. So after I stopped that and started eating more garden foods, then my life changed.”
After his health scare, Thomas started cycling around his neighborhood 6 miles a day.
“With the help of my friends, I started to get better and continue to do that," said Thomas. "It drove me to be more conscious of [the] activities that I have in my life.”
Since that time, Thomas, who teaches health and safety for the state’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, has taken up bike riding to help keep off the 60 pounds he’s lost. He became a member of the Real Rydaz Bike Club, a group of about 30 riders who build their own custom bikes.
He’s done much more than that.
Thomas went on to organize a group called “We Are Responsible People” (WARP) in order to encourage other Angelenos to get healthy. The group is hosting Sunday's bike ride, its second annual event.
“Bicycle companies are going to network their products, get to know their community," says Thomas, describing the event. "We’ve also been pushing for bicycle lanes and we actually got bicycle lanes put on Vermont from 88th all the way to Gardena, El Segundo.”
Thomas says the city of Los Angeles has worked to fill dozens of potholes along the bike route. Cyclists will include students from Peary Middle School in Gardena, Thomas’ alma mater. His group has launched an after school program there to teach students about cultivating food from their shared garden.
The ride starts at 10:15 a.m. in Exposition Park.