Family Biking Workshops Draw Crowds for Rides and Free Fix-Ups | News

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Family Biking Workshops Draw Crowds for Rides and Free Fix-Ups

Monday, October 6, 2014

It was a Tuesday evening, but it looked like a lively weekend afternoon at East Palo Alto’s Joel Davis Park. Kids and parents wheeled around on their bicycles — a pink princess bike with training wheels, a Hot Wheels-themed two-wheeler that produced an intimidating revving noise, a grown-up tandem bike with a seat for a toddler. Some were preparing to embark on a four-mile ride around town; others just wanted their flat tires fixed for free. 

The event was one of many Family Biking Workshops made possible by a nearly $200,000 Spare the Air Youth Grant from MTC and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The two-year grant helps the Bay Area’s bike coalitions teach families about bike safety and maintenance, and opportunities for riding in their communities. There are plenty of goodies up for grabs: free helmets, and bikes to be raffled and loaned out. 

The impetus for these workshops was a recognition that the whole family has to be involved in fitness and environmental efforts, but often doesn’t have the resources or support needed to do so. Often, kids’ bikes gather dust in the back of the garage because of a minor problem that can easily be fixed.

“For the message to stick, you have to reach everyone involved,” said Ernest Lizaola, education program manager at the Silicon Valley Bike Coalition, which hosted the workshop in East Palo Alto. “This is a safe venue for families to come out and bike together. The parents might not think it’s possible — they also have bikes that aren’t working!” 

East Palo Alto resident Santrociyan Arnold came out to the park with her boyfriend and two daughters. She appreciates the workshops because “they not only provide the motivation of fitness, but they help get underneath it — like the fact that a lot of children don’t have bikes,” she said.

Hers do, though, so she was inspired to start riding as well. “We’re all getting into it. We just need to get him one!” she said, pointing at her boyfriend. 

Stealing much of the spotlight was another Spare the Air Youth grantee, the Bay Area BikeMobile. The roving mechanics set up shop at the event, repairing over 25 bikes throughout the evening, and teaching many of the young riders how to do it themselves. The two BikeMobiles — one serving Alameda County, the other serving the other eight Bay Area counties — have hosted hundreds of fix-a-thons at schools and parks throughout the region.

“This is about average,” said bike technician Dave Boone, glancing at the long sign-up list for the free bike repairs. He registered two girls who had just shown up, while simultaneously cheering on a five-year-old who was pumping air into a tire for the first time. 

All communities have their own barriers to bike use, Lizaola said. In East Palo Alto, it’s personal safety. Family Biking Workshops introduce residents to their neighbors and city officials, and include bike safety lessons that empower cyclists and kids to be more independent. The events alert the community to the infrastructure that exists and calls attention to the need for more.

In East Palo Alto, that infrastructure includes a beautiful stretch of the Bay Trail. At the beginning of the workshop, a crew of kids and parents joined Lizaola and police officers on a four-mile ride on the trail. It was the first sizable ride that many of the participants had ever attempted, and they all returned with smiling faces.

Some community members came to Joel Davis Park that evening for a specific purpose, such as Shrikant and Radha Nasikkar, who brought their twin 10-year-olds’ bikes to be fixed up.
And others? 

“I’m just here to ride my bike,” said 7-year-old Jesus Sanchez with a shrug. He strapped on his free helmet and pedaled furiously across the park as the sun set.

— Natalie Orenstein

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