Wheels Bike-A-Thon hits streets this weekend in Mattapan

Participants in last year's Mattapan Wheels event stretched out at Walker Playground.

Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition first introduced the Wheels Bike-A-Thon to the Mattapan community six years ago. Organizers envisioned a family-friendly event that would also promote healthy, physical activity.

The event — which hits the streets from George H. Walker Playground at 8 a.m. this Sat., July 23— has seen its mission grow. Now, the hope is to showcase the neighborhood and help make Mattapan a more bike-friendly environment.

“Mattapan was always being labeled as the community with a lot of crime and being dirty. We want people to see what Mattapan is about,” said Shavel’le Olivier, event coordinator of Mattapan on Wheels. “Since people from other areas come out to the event, people have started to widen their eyes on Mattapan.

The event is geared towards everyone— from residents of Mattapan area to those from surrounding neighborhoods and beyond.

“The event has given residence and people from surrounding communities the opportunity to see the beauty of Mattapan. This has increased the pride that residents have in their community and has helped others see that Mattapan is not as bad as the media portrays it,” expressed Holden Pierre, co-coordinator of Mattapan on Wheels from 2011-2015.

The event is free and open to riders of all ages and skill levels. It will consist of three different biking routes: the 8 mile family ride; a 15 mile “intermediate” route and the 25 mile expert ride.

Olivier said the routes will help highlight the need for better infrastructure along the way.

“There are no sections for bike lanes in Mattapan. It is not bike friendly,” Olivier said. “I want people to know Boston is changing – More specifically letting the city know that residents in Mattapan bike.”

Young people are playing an active part in the bike-a-thon this year, according to Vivien Morris, chair of Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition. She worked to get partnerships with Greenways, Greenovate Boston, the Boston Police Department, and many others.

Other organizations including Bibliocycle and Scoops and Hoops will be out at the playground hosting various non-biking activities. There will also be vendors from local shops out.

Mattapan on Wheels hopes to have at least 150 riders for this upcoming event. The first year they had 35 riders and last year there were 110, according to Olivier.