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Salinas Youth and Others for Bikes: Bikes Make Life Better

When Gabe Alvizo is heading home from work and pauses to show his colors on the street, they aren’t gang colors, they are  neon turquoise bicycle tires.   No wonder this Salinas 19-year-old brings a genuine smile from City of Salinas police

Why does Gabe ride?
He’s found a safe and sane way to have fun.
And it’s Earth-friendly transportation to boot!

If only all youth could know, as Gabe does, about the natural high of biking, and its many other benefits–strengthening personal health, putting more money in your wallet (instead of a gas pump), and more!  Why bike? Biking can make healthier people, and healthier communities for everyone.

Salinas youth are bike community leaders, leading the way with many Monterey County biking firsts.

Below you’ll find A dozen ideas to help get youth on bikes!

The Salinas Police Activities League (PAL) recognizes the benefits of bicycling and puts on bicycle safety rodeos for children and teens, such as one they’ve done at Alisal Healthy Start for the past several years, including 10/16/11, and another rodeo 10/21/12. They are always looking to expand their reach and make their events better.

The ability of PAL programs to provide free activities for kids requires community volunteers and support.  Please contact Angel Gonzalez, Executive Director at Salinas PAL to see how you can help.

The dozen ideas below are additional ways to help youth bike, and reminders of why the need for volunteers is great.

What’s up with youth in Monterey County?

Lots of good things happening with youth countywide.  And some challenging things too.  [Updates in 1/30/12 New York Times, "In Salinas, Fighting Gang Violence on a Shoestring," by Erica Goode; KSBW's 4/3/12 exclusive video footage regarding Deputy Chief Kelly McMillin of the Salinas Police Department and Fernanda Ocana, who were honored as Champions of Change in a White House awards ceremony; and 8/18/12 interview with Salinas Police Chief Kelly McMillin by Jeff Mitchell in the Salinas Californian.]

As reported in the 10/26/11 story by Julia Reynolds in the Monterey County Herald, “Youth center about rehabilitation for teenage offenders,” a community forum was held about the Monterey County Youth Center.  If you are a regular reader of this site, you may notice a frequent focus on youth in Salinas and countywide; yes, I was glad to attend this meeting!

In talking with several youths afterward, I was reminded of how many love bikes–and don’t have them.  And in talking with some officials, I learned also of some bikes that could be donated to youths if they could be taught, hands-on, how to maintain and repair the bikes.  More on that below.  But first…

Why help?

You’re likely aware of youth crime and violence, mostly gang-related, in our county.  Perhaps you are aware that our county seat has the highest youth homicide rate in the state–once again, with the latest figures in (for 2009 and 2010). You probably also know some of the many different ways that the situation is being addressed.  Some such ways are partnerships between organizations like the Naval Postgraduate School and the Salinas Police Department, and the work of the Monterey County Youth Center and the Rancho Cielo Youth Campus

Also see the County’s 2/7/12 report on STRYVE (Strive to Prevent Youth Violence Everywhere), “the only prevention funding that the city [Salinas] has gotten of any significance.” (If you couldn’t make that meeting, you may watch the 2/7/12 Board of Supervisors meeting online.)

Other ways the challenge is being addressed are the activities of  many individuals and groups in our local communities who are working to provide more opportunities for youth.  (Think prevention!)  In a wide variety of ways, these help youth to build healthier, happier lives, including obtaining education best suited to their abilities and goals (for more on that locally, click here) and learning styles (80-90% of those in the Youth Center have learning disabilities; for more on that locally, click here).  Many also play a role in preparing youth to secure meaningful work with a living wage (an added challenge).

Education and a job are vital. There’s more that youth need though.

What kids need

Mother always said, “You need something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.”  Love?  The 10/26 meeting in Salinas addressed the issue of relationships–including counseling to strengthen family relationships, transitional support from Youth Center staff, and the importance of new relationships, when old ones would be a pull into gang activities and crime.  Representatives of the Foundation for Honey’s Children were there too, people who help youth develop communication and relationship skills.

What about “something to do” and “something to look forward to”?  In the Julia Reynolds 10/18/11 Monterey County Herald story “Monterey County Youth Center on lockdown,” Marcia Parsons, assistant probation chief, said: “ ”You’d be surprised how many (youths) haven’t seen the ocean.”  And as Parsons stated in the 10/26 story:   “The public needs to be reminded that these kids came from Salinas and Monterey County….” (See the 1/13/12 Santa Cruz Sentinel story “Interior chief Ken Salazar to make push for former military base” for an example of one such Salinas youth.)

Hmm…something to do, something to look forward to…if those are vital to keeping out of trouble and having a healthy, happy life, what are some of the healthy activities and recreation that can help? What about one that provides physical exercise, boosts mood, is good for the planet, and provides an economical form of transportation too?

Are you thinking what I’ve been thinking? (See “Teaching Children Well:  Bike Safety and Bike Tech Education.)

And specific to the Monterey County Youth Center, they’ve been thinking the same thing.  In fact, they want to add Bicycle Safety and Education to their programs and classes–and just have not yet found anyone ready to help (e.g., come in on a weekly basis). [Update:  See "Getting on the Right Path."]

That’s where the bike community comes in!

We who like to bike can also play a part in helping to solve this youth crime and violence challenge!  Working together with people who are making other types of efforts in the community, our many different efforts combined can turn this thing around.  Bicycling advocates and youth leaders are making that sort of contribution in other places, let’s do it in increasingly bike-friendly Monterey County too! Below are a dozen ideas. 

And who knows where this could lead?  In time, people in Monterey County just might develop a youth program like that of nonprofit community bike shop Blackstone Bicycle Works in Chicago, for children and youth ages 8 to 19.  (Watch this 3 min 34 sec video or this news story.)  It may not be popular to acknowledge that our beautiful Monterey County has any resemblance to poverty areas of inner cities, yet it can’t be denied that Monterey County has not only a huge amount of pluses, it also has the highest youth homicide rate in the state.

Our youth deserve much better!

In addition to volunteering with the Seaside Police Activities League (PAL) program for their bike rodeos and events, as referred to above,  here are…

A dozen ideas to help get youth on bikes:

  1. Salinas police have their hands full, and their hearts are full too–of desire to help Salinas youth.  Give them a hand in making it possible for the Salinas Police Activities League to have a bike fair, another bike rodeo, or even a riding club or racing team.  Organize friends who are willing to make the necessary time commitments to make it happen, and successfully. (You don’t have to be experienced, just reliable and willing. Guidance is available; please contact me.)
  2. Teach bike safety skills, or assist instructors like Frank Henderson in doing so. (To teach at the Youth Center, contact me.)
  3. Volunteer to be an Organized Guide (OG)  on a Salinas Bike Party ride.  These guides, AKA bike ambassadors, help other riders stay mindful of Salinas Bike Party rules, which include following CA bike laws and showing courtesy to motorists, pedestrians, and others. Salinas Bike Party’s  goal is to be a courteous social bike run, reinforcing that Salinas is a safe, fun place to get on your bike and have fun.   Click here for details.
  4. Who says Salinas–and all of Monterey County–oughta have just one cool high school cycling team? Why not help form another?  And while both racing and mountain biking are cool, other high school cycling teams might even choose to have a different focus.  There are so many options! Beach cruisers, BMX, fixed gear (with brakes on roadways), mountain bikes, road bikes, and more.  They could be racing teams, social rides of all different sorts, bike-to-school commuter groups, bike tours–within Monterey County,  or to neighboriing counties, or elsewhere for end-of-year trips.
  5. Donate time in teaching youth to maintain and repair bikes, from changing a flat to more extensive repairs.
  6. Donate bike parts, tools,  or accessories, or money to purchase them.
  7. Donate bikes in ready working condition, or bikes in need of inexpensive repair.
  8. Listen to youth. Find out what they like about biking, or don’t.  For example, some teen girls told me stumbling blocks to biking are wearing helmets (appearance of helmets and/or not owning one) required for those under 18; risk of bikes or bike parts being stolen, even at schools; being excited about being old enough to drive a car instead; and their parents thinking it’s unsafe for them to bike on roads. If they welcome it, help youth find solutions to these and other stumbling blocks. (Feel free to contact me with questions.)
  9. Help youth learn to read bike maps, and how to make use of MST as a bike-and-ride option.
  10. Teach theft prevention tips.  Teach tips on biking in various weather conditions.
  11. Do general bike outreach to youth, both English and Spanish speakers.  (As a May 12, 2011 Monterey County Herald story reported, “about 55 percent of students speak Spanish as the primary language at home.”)  Help them find resources regarding California bicycle laws (not available in Spanish on the DMV website, but available on this site), and other biking info.
  12. Encourage and facilitate youth participation in appropriate activities of local bike clubs, along with other local biking activities and events.  Regional activities happen too, such as with the Santa Cruz chapter of Trips for Kids.
  13. Communicate with city councils and the Transportation Agency about improvements needed to local bike infrastructure.  (See local contacts on this page, and read more about infrastructure below.)  Communicate with state and federal government representatives about legislation and funding to support safer bikeways Investing in bike infrastructure is an investment to reduce health care costs, reduce carbon emissions, and much more. Check these benefits.  On this site, a Bicycle Culture and Youth post includes a video from Britain that emphasizes one reason many British girls stopped cycling:  infrastructure (not finding the bikeways safe or convenient).
  14. Be a role model.  Haven’t biked Salinas lately?  What are you waiting for!  Here are some tips to get you started biking Salinas.

The nation’s gap between affluence and poverty has only widened, as the Congressional Budget Office reported.  That’s surely true, too, here in Monterey County, a place rich in both natural beauty and affluent lifestyles. It’s hard to believe  some kids in our county haven’t been to the ocean; it’s less surprising that many don’t have bikes–a staple of our young years for most of us.

Eeek! Takes too much time. I’d rather be biking!

Of course, it’s important to prioritize our own physical, emotional, and economic health.  As an elder friend once reminded me, time issues are a matter of choices.  The trick is to find a balance so it’s possible to care for ourselves, and others.

Perhaps this particular local challenge speaks to you.  If you’re enthused about bikes and concerned for the well-being of children and teens, consider sharing the joys and other benefits of biking with youth. Chances are, your own levels of joy and hope will be raised too.

How would you like to celebrate successes?

Maybe our local bike clubs can celebrate with youth who are newly on bikes by taking a local day trip that will likely be doubly special to some of those youth–those who haven’t seen the ocean either:  bike to the beach!

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More People for Bikes

Get a 2 min 34 sec taste of why Gabe and others love to bike. And why over 397,000 [484, 886 by 4/6/12] people are standing up for biking in America–and want you to join them.

[This is an artistic presentation. Safe night riding, with lights, is recommended. See further comments at People for Bikes.]

And the earlier video, “If I Ride….”


The above video, “If I Ride,” is a 1 minute, 25 second poem to cycling.  It expresses the joy and encouragement that biking brings, and it’s shared by People for Bikes, “Uniting a million voices to improve the future of biking.”

FYI, the info below was published previously and has not been updated.

  1. Join your voice with others throughout America: It takes less than a minute to join 9-year-old Anneka Esborg and me in signing the  People for Bikes pledge. ( See Anneka asking others to sign the pledge at the 2011 Sea Otter Classic.)
  2. Share why you ride: Please also leave a comment at the end of this post (or contact me), telling why you ride!
  3. Connect with others in your area: Discover (or rediscover or create) your local bike community.  In Monterey County–and elsewhere in Monterey Bay region and nationwide–consider participating in May 2011 Bike Week/Month activities.  In Monterey County, check out the prizes awarded in non-competitive events to encourage more biking!

* * * * *

Why a People for Bikes campaign?

What Americans want

Few of us live a car-free life.  Nonetheless, most of us want a better nation for biking as well.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray La Hood announced in March 2010:  This is “the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.”  In spite of criticisms, he did not back down. As the New York Times later reported,  Secretary La Hood reiterated his commitment, saying, “This is what Americans want.”

Add your voice in less than a minute!

At the People for Bikes site, you can add your voice to others who are speaking up for bicycling in America. Sign-up is quick and easy. Together, we can help make the USA a more bike friendly nation, for our own health (physical, economic, and more) and the health of the planet.

People for Bikes is a campaign of Bikes Belong.  For more info, see this Sea Otter Classic news item, or go directly to www.peopleforbikes.org.

From 2010 to 2011–now over 222,000

I first saw “If I Ride” at a local showing of “Ride the Divide” in April 2010, and published info here about People for Bikes.  A year later, People for Bikes has collected over 222,000 pledges from people like you and me.

Why does infrastructure matter?

On the Bicycling Monterey website, see these posts for just a couple examples of why bike infrastructure matters so much:

Bike infrastructure in Monterey County

Check out these examples of helpful bike infrastructure in Monterey County–you’ll find many, many more on the Bicycling Monterey website, and elsewhere:

Local tips and support for biking in Monterey County

Start with Tips for Bicycling Monterey County.  This is a free online guide, originally created to help visitors, that has expanded into a 20-section guide for locals as well.

Also refer to Monterey County’s Bicycle Shops, Services, Clubs, and Resources for lots more local resources.

The HER Helmet Thursdays Project

Here in Monterey County, businesses and organizations are partnering with people on bikes to help make our county one of the most bike-friendly places in America–for residents and for tourists.   Make use of the HER Helmet Thursdays discounts, which are for males and females, year-round!

Learn about the goals of the HER Helmet Thursdays project, which is appropriate for other geographic locations too.

Happy riding!

 

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The info above has been updated from post previously published 10/27/11.

  1. Misty says:

    Biking is fun! What other reason do we need?

  2. kjb1812 says:

    We are so fortunate to live in an area surrounded by natural beauty. We should find ways to nurture and enjoy it every day. Bike riding is one of them. It’s also good for your body.

  3. Matthew Sundt says:

    Outstanding site. Uplifting, informative, relevant and fun to read and look at. Please keep up the good work.

    Matthew

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