by Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Illegal ATVs and dirt bikes have long been a problem on Philadelphia Streets. A new documentary pulls back the curtain on the city’s underground dirt bike community through a local legend.
“They are real people with a real passion,” says LaMar McPherson, “There are no outlets, schools are closing down, you go past playgrounds there are hoops with no rims.”
He is the brains behind “The Last Ride: A Philadelphia Story” and its director. The feature-length documentary takes you deep inside Philadelphia’s bike community through the eyes of the young men who perform illegal daredevil stunts on city streets.
“So this right here– this is Rell,” says McPherson, as he takes the CBS/KYW team on a tour of Fallon Street in West Philadelphia. “Rell” is “Dirt Bike Rell” or Kyrell Tyler, a “Hot Boy” synonymous with Philadelphia’s Bike life community and one of the real-life main characters of the film. McPherson says “Rell” learned to ride on Fallon Street and kept his illegal bikes in bushes and other areas along his route.
“This was his playground…his ghetto playground,” says McPherson.
Tyler was murdered in October of 2014 just as his career in legal motocross dirt bike racing was taking off. But his stunts were so well-known all over the world, hundreds flocked to his funeral causing traffic jams days after his death.
“When he died- more than 800 bikes came by here,” says McPherson, pointing to a makeshift memorial on Fallon street, “and people come by here all the time– to pay homage, light a candle, pray or whatever.”
“It was horrific…it was horrific,” says Tameka Niblack, Tyler’s mother.
Nineteen months after her son’s death, it remains unsolved. Niblack copes by selling t-shirts with her son’s favorite image: Tyler popping a wheelie outside of city hall with his hands stretched at each side. That image is on t-shirts, tattoos on the bodies of those in the bike community, and on bikers who loved and admired Tyler.
“For him [the bike] was freedom,” she says, “he loved his bike and he made you want to watch him riding up your block.”
But many in the “bike life,” like Tyler, also live a “street life.” Many get injured, injure others, get killed, or spend time in prison for engaging in other activities.
“This is my way out,” says Jose Collazo, 30, who started riding bikes when he was six. He loves riding, despite the danger and illegality and believes there is a way to take his street rides to the dirt.
“I want to ride motocross, I want to be a professional,” says the father of two, “I don’t want to worry about riding and a cop knocking me off my bike.”
A Temple University film grad, McPherson says he hopes that by sharing the story of the people behind the illegal city sport, the bike community can come together and push for a dirt bike park in city limits. After all, Tyler’s four-year-old son already has a motorized bike. McPherson wants a place for the next generation to grow and perhaps pursue their dream.
“Every time you ride a bike…you risk your life,” he says, “they deserve a chance– an opportunity to pursue this passion, to express themselves.”
The Last Ride premiers in Philadelphia on June 2, 2016 in South Philadelphia. You can watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RG9Up2tVbDM