Shalonnie Rides Into Her Future

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By Pamela Moore, Program Director

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Saint Paul resident Shalonnie is a Transportation Options superstar. In my opinion, she has experienced the greatest growth and development of any participant in this program.

When we first met, however, Shalonnie was only mildly interested in Transportation Options. Our partners at the YWCA required her to engage in programming designed to help her move toward self-sufficiency. Because Shalonnie identified transportation as an ongoing barrier toward her success, the YWCA referred her to us at Transit for Livable Communities and we slowly got her rethinking her options.

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When Shalonnie and I first assessed her transportation needs, she had a poorly functioning vehicle that she drove everywhere. Knowing the car was a drain on her monthly budget and had multiple mechanical issues, she limited the number of activities she did away from home. Basically, she was isolated. In addition to trips to the store, she drove 2 miles round-trip every day to take her teenage son to school. As we started to explore options, car sharing was a good first step.

As I got to know Shalonnie better, I noticed a strong desire to improve her current situation. I started suggesting the possibilities of transit use and bicycling. At that time, she made it clear to me she was not at all interested in using transit, but I piqued her interest with bicycling. Once I shared information about routes, cargo possibilities, and impact on budget, Shalonnie began to seriously consider bicycling for transportation.

TShalonnie-and-her-teenage-son-with-their-bikeshe Transportation Options program is designed for both individuals and families. Luckily, we were able to purchase bicycles for Shalonnie as well as her teenage son. Together they have planned routes and transported cargo. Individually they have ridden their bikes to school, to job interviews, to run errands, to participate in YWCA programming, and to visit friends. Having a bicycle has moved Shalonnie away from isolation.

As the summer of 2015 wound down and fall was nearing, Shalonnies’ enthusiasm for her newly discovered transportation options stayed strong. I was pleasantly surprised when she asked to explore transit as an expanded option for her. She quickly became a transit user, with her bike! That request was followed by another: studded tires for her bike and her son’s.

Recently, I interviewed Shalonnie and I was moved by the number of stories she shared about the impact of cycling on her monthly budget, physical health, and most importantly her mental health. When I asked, “How does bicycling make you feel?” she said, “Free!” followed by, “I can breathe.” These are powerful statements coming from someone who was isolated and suffering from health ailments including asthma.

Shalonnie worked her way out of the transitional housing program she was involved in at the YWCA. When she was searching for her new place she used the following criteria: safe and clean, access to transit, and ease of bike routes. Now in her new home, Shalonnie is free to ride into her future.

To learn more about TLC’s work to address transportation as a basic need, empowering low-income Minnesotans to lower their costs and expand their access to education and jobs, visit our Transportation Options page.