Congratulations to the Alameda and Contra Costa counties Bike Champion of the Year! Lionel McNeely of Oakland and Smitty Ardrey of Concord impressed us with their commitment to biking as a way to inspire others and bring awareness to infrastructure needs. Meet them below!
You’re a winner too: Join the fun by pledging to ride on Bike to Work Day, Thursday, May 21!
Lionel McNeely, Alameda County Bike Champion of the Year
Lionel McNeely first taught himself how to ride when he was seven, and his work with bikes hasn’t stopped since. He laughs, “I took my first bike apart when I was ten years old, and got it back together when I was twelve.” In recent years Lionel has logged more than 11,000 miles on Strava, “and that’s in my 50’s! I’m 59!” he says. And the list of ways Lionel has worked inspiring people to ride is just about as many miles long.
Lionel is an eleven-year volunteer with youth empowerment program Trips for Kids in Marin, leads monthly art rides with Oakland collective Rock Paper Scissors, has ridden and fundraised with AIDS/LifeCycle down the California coast three times, and more. Nominator Danielle Day writes, “Lionel rides his bike all over the state. He rides for miles! He loves cycling! He helps out at a cycle shop to make sure people have the right bike or fix bikes for others.” You can find Lionel wrenching on all types of bikes at the Laurel Cyclery in Oakland, where he says “the bikes we get here are just as diverse as the community.”
Lionel especially champions accessibility to safe travel in East Oakland and beyond: whether it’s by bike, walking, or public transit. Lionel has completed a 99-mile trip around the Bay Trail, and loves the accessibility to car-free paths that the trail offers. Running into friends while out for a ride or on public transit is also a favorite, like when Lionel bumped into friend Robert Rayburn on BART while traveling to the opening day of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge bike path. Lionel says, “I love the fact that there are public transportation alternatives [in the Bay Area] that can assist you with areas you can’t typically get to by bike, so you don’t feel stranded.”
In addition to Lionel’s many inspiring bike related pursuits, he also volunteers as a master gardener with Alameda County, and enjoys spending time on and off the bike with his wife and son. Congratulations Lionel on being the Alameda County Bike Champion of the Year!
Smitty Ardrey, Contra Costa County Bike Champion of the Year
Contra Costa County’s 2021 Bike Champion of the Year is Smitty Ardrey. Every Thursday in the summer you can find Smitty fixing bikes at Bike Concord’s Bike Tent at the Concord farmers market in Todo Santos Plaza. Moving from San Francisco to Concord in 2000, Smitty realized that the city desperately needed safer infrastructure for biking and walking, and started getting involved with bike advocacy by showing up at meetings and volunteering with Bike East Bay. Since then, as nominator Claire Linder puts it, “He has brought bike rodeos, pop up bike repair clinics, and since 2019, a bike education class at Olympic High School in Concord. His drive, foresight and commitment have made biking more accessible in central Contra Costa County, bringing to life [Bike Concord’s] mission of MBOB (More Butts on Bikes)!”
In 2008, Smitty started the first bicycle kitchen in town, hoping to provide a community space that could help promote and provide resources on biking. Ever since, the bicycle kitchen has become a beloved community space where youths and adults can learn bike maintenance and talk about biking in town. When the City of Concord sought input for its first bicycle and pedestrian master plan, Smitty and a few other volunteers set up a table under a canopy at the farmers market in Todo Santos Plaza to gather community feedback. One thing led to another, and people started to call it the “Bike Tent,” expecting it as a regular feature of the farmers market. “The Bike Kitchen and the Bike Tent provide opportunities to talk about biking in Concord and neighboring communities,” says Smitty. “Anyone is welcome to visit the tent, get minor repairs for free, and share their thoughts on biking in town.” Advocates passionate about “more butts on bikes” in Concord have come together thanks to spaces like the Bike Tent and Bike Kitchen, and are now known as Bike Concord. The organization is an integral part of the bicycle movement in Concord and surrounding areas. Smitty is proud that the group has been hauling 185 lbs worth of gear on a cargo bike almost every time they’ve been to the farmers market. Retired recently, he still enjoys a leisurely stroll around town or goes for longer rides on weekends. Smitty has been a true champion for the bike community in Concord and beyond. Congratulations, Smitty!