Michele Jackson organizes Philly Bikefest to put focus on motorcycle awareness
By Lindsey Nolen
There were 3,547 motorcycle crashes last year in Pennsylvania, of which 192 resulted in occupant fatalities, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
No stranger to the seat of a bike herself, Michele Jackson has once again organized Philly Bikefest to take place on Friday, June 16, from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, June 17, from noon to 6 p.m. to highlight motorcycle “education, enforcement and outreach to the community.”
“Countless accidents happen when people aren’t paying attention,” said Jackson, a 56-year-old Claymont, Del., resident. “A couple of weeks ago, a guy I ride with … was on his way home after riding all afternoon. After it had gotten dark at night, a car made a left-hand turn right into him and totaled his bike.”
Although her friend was able to walk away from his accident, others are not so fortunate. Jackson has reached out to motorcycle-related organizations and establishments, such as the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Association and Smart Streets, to help her pass out information on the best safety practices while operating a motorcycle on the road. Guest speakers will also talk about safety.
Jackson’s inspiration for the event came from her own experience riding bikes over the past 20 years.
She recalled first hopping on the back of a motorcycle and being asked if she could feel the overwhelming excitement. Unsure, she then hopped on a bike for the first time and described the feeling as a high like nothing else.
Two months later, she bought her first bike: a Kawasaki Ninja 250R.
From there, always as an independent rider, she progressed to larger, more powerful bikes, including the Suzuki GSXR 600 and now the Suzuki GSXR 1300 Hayabusa.
Through her increasing interest and passion for riding, Jackson also expanded her involvement in the motorcycle community to organizing events designed to help use their platform to raise awareness for a myriad of topics.
“One event I’ve organized is the Midnight Run for Peace, which involves police escorting motorcycle riders across the city to promote peace. Last year we kicked off at City Hall at midnight and, with police officers as escorts, went to high-crime areas to give out information, ending back at City Hall,” she said. “Since, I’ve had the mayor’s office from Trenton call me about hosting a Midnight Ride there.”
Yet, it was really after Jackson held a “Girls on Busas” event at the Philadelphia Cycle Center, l 450 Castor Ave., that she got the idea to combine motorcycles and safety awareness by creating another, more large-scale event. After that event, she thought she had the momentum to establish something more inclusive to all those involved in the motorcycle community.
“We were thinking about another type of event to do and I came up with Philly Bikefest,” said Jackson, who has hosted roughly 75 motorcycle community events in the past. “We knew it could incorporate all the different types of motorcycles while touching upon safety and awareness. This is especially important during April and May when there are a lot of bikers getting back on the road, and then more accidents.”
While spreading safety awareness is a main goal of the event, it will also host a car show across the street in the parking lot of the Applebee’s, 2535 Castor Ave. Additionally, there will be a motorcycle show, bike blessing, moment of silence for the fallen, a stunt show, seating area, band and a dj, and people elected officials and community leaders from around the city, such as state Rep. Angel Cruz.
“It will be a great opportunity to take all the fathers out during Father’s Day weekend to see beautiful bikes and cars for free, and to learn about motorcycle safety,” Jackson said. “Last year, over 400 people came out to the event and I got a lot of positive feedback.”
Although she added the River Wards don’t have a particularly large bike scene, Jackson hopes Philadelphia Cycle Center’s location, surrounded by popular businesses including Applebee’s, Walmart, McDonalds and Home Depot, will bring with it increased traffic. Holding the event at Philadelphia Cycle Center was also chosen because of Jackson’s longstanding motorcycle friendship and partnership with its president, Vince Sanginit.
“[Sanginit] has seen me organize different events, and was all for [Philly Bikefest],” Jackson said. “I’ve always tried to ride with a purpose and make an impact. Being able to see and notice the impact you’re making in the community is the most rewarding part.”
Friday, June 16, from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, June 17, from noon to 6 p.m.
Philly Cycle Center, 2450 Castor Ave.