Free Pizza and a Positive Mental Attitude with Joe Cox of PMA Bike Ride

Joe has given away over 9,000 slices of pizza to hungry Philadelphians since establishing the PMA Bike Ride in 2016. Last weekend, I tagged along to learn more. I hope you'll support his cause in the future.

Free Pizza and a Positive Mental Attitude with Joe Cox of PMA Bike Ride
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You can't miss Joe Cox. You've may have already seen him. As a bike messenger, he criss-crosses about 350 miles of Philadelphia's streets each week on a rig decked out in big yellow signs with smiley faces and a request for safe driving. He's a fixture at social rides. He was an Independent candidate for City Council in 2019.


But he's even harder to miss when, twice a month, his hollers echo through the streets offering free pizza to anyone who may be in need.

On the last Saturday and first Sunday of each month, Joe leads the 501(c)(3) registered PMA Bike Ride which he started in June of 2016. PMA stands for positive mental attitude, a state he aims to radiate through dignifying people who are so often overlooked. I rode with Joe on the first Sunday of June as he paid for, picked up, and delivered 20 boxes of pizza in Central, West, and South Philadelphia.

According to the PMA Bike Ride website, "The PMA Bike Ride is essentially a pizza party for the hungry on the street and you do not need a bike to join. More than just feeding pizza though, we aim to acknowledge the voice, value and humanity of those often looked down upon."

Joe picked up the first ten pies from Pizzata Pizzeria, who offers him a discount for the PMA Bike Ride, by 22nd and Spruce. He met the owner while doing a delivery on Passyunk and has been working with them for over three years now. Joe inspected the vegetarian-friendly cheese and vegan-friendly tomato pies before carefully loading them up in thermal delivery bags and strapping them to the trailer on his bike. The trailer also held cases of water, hand sanitizer, plates, napkins, and other essentials.


After all these years, Joe knows where people who are hungry or might be experiencing homelessness tend to be. His bellowing call announcing free pizza attracts the attention of those who need it most. Joe pulls over and offers a few slices and water to unsuspecting and enthusiastically grateful patrons. This is where the positive mental attitude in PMA comes in - peoples' days turn around when Joe pulls up and treats them with dignity and a favorite meal. Compliments and heart-felt thanks rang out and are recorded in quotes at the conclusion of the remaining passages.

"God bless you! God bless you! You're an angel!"


The PMA Bike Ride visits different pre-determined sites each time. This day's ride was broken into two shifts: one across the Schuylkill down Market Street and the second from Melrose up Broad Street to Love Park. The ride planned for later this month will benefit the hungry in Kensington and Center City.

"You're right on time!"

30th Street Station is the region's most important transportation hub and a logical destination on the PMA Bike Ride. In 2011, the station's southern frontage at Market Street was converted from a parking area to a critically valuable public plaza called The Porch which features landscaping, swings, and seating. It's a gathering space for all types of people, many of whom are hungry. Several people there gladly accepted a meal and hydration before Joe locked his bike up and turned his attention inside the station.

"I just got up here last week and I've been so hungry for a slice of pizza!"


Joe's a fun guy to hang out with and he's learned all the tricks in his years traversing the city by bike. His glasses bear a coat of Rain-X in case of wet conditions and he carries an air horn to warn distracted or aggressive drivers. His tattoo collection includes nine pizzas: each one representing 1,000 slices given away in PMA Bike Rides. He tells me there's no better feeling than giving but that these are very emotional days too. People talk to him. He's built relationships out there and it can be heavy.

"It's better than beggin'."

Though Joe can accomplish this feat of generosity on his own, it does help to have the lending hand of volunteers. Joe has had a lot of help over the years, but support has waned since the onset of the 2020 pandemic. I highly recommend reaching out and joining a PMA Bike Ride. It's truly a unique, eye-opening, and fulfilling way to experience the city.

All of these pizzas cost a lot of money despite the generous discounts offered by partnering pizzerias. Tax-deductible donations are crucial for sustaining the PMA Bike Ride, though I get the sense that nothing is going to stop Joe from spreading joy and positivity through pizza. Please consider sponsoring a ride, a one-time donation, or contributing monthly through the Patreon at this donation link.

"He the world's friend."

The second shift started at Cacia's Bakery on the 1500 block of Ritner, a fourth generation family-owned restaurant dishing up really tasty square pies deep in South Philly. Joe's been working with Cacia's, who also offers him a discount for the PMA Bike Ride, for about seven years and it was fun to see how well they knew each other.

"I got water but more water's always good cause it's hot out here and I got nowhere else to get it."


I have fewer photos from the second shift because there were so many people accepting pizza at Broad and Snyder and at City Hall that I couldn't engage them all to get permission. Joe says that sometimes the pies go even faster, especially in Kensington where hunger and encampments have persisted over the years. No one is turned away for any reason. You can never know what someone else is going through and everyone deserves a dose of positivity. Joe later reflects to me, "This is Philadelphia, the poorest big city. People could use some help."

"My wife's gonna think she died and went to heaven!"

Besides continuing the PMA Bike Ride in Philadelphia, Joe hopes it can grow into a national movement. He undertook a six-state PMA Bike Tour in 2017 and aims to organize a ride across the United States giving out pizza. Joe is willing to pay $50 to anyone across the country to start a PMA Bike Ride in their city and already has a few leads. Aside from spreading a positive mental attitude, an expanded movement would raise awareness of the homelessness crisis.

Please, again, help Joe on his mission by donating to PMA Bike Ride or volunteering for a shift. Pizza might be the most popular food in the world. Because of his devotion to spreading positivity in this city, Joe might be the most popular cyclist in Philly.