Above from left: Mirabel Mateo, Tony Gattica and Lynnete Guzman of the Bike It! Santa Ana project of KidWorks ride on Edinger Ave., where their protected bike lane will be created.
Young people in Orange County are getting tired of the region’s lack of bike-friendliness. Happily, riding on Edinger Avenue in Santa Ana, from the Santa Ana River Trail to Bristol Street (a section of street that connects eight schools), will be a much safer experience beginning in 2017. That’s when the protected bike lane project spearheaded by enterprising youth at the nonprofit KidWorks, in collaboration with the City of Santa Ana’s Public Works Department, is projected to be completed. Just last month, the youth-led project was awarded $2.3 million in grant funding by the California Transportation Commission to make it a reality.
The new protected lane won’t arrive a minute too soon. According to a profile of the youth in the Orange County Register in November, the KidWorks grant application documented the 12 bicycle collisions and 8 pedestrian collisions that occurred on the 1.7-mile stretch of KidWorks’ bike lane project between January 2011 and May 2015. In July, a 13-year-old girl riding her bicycle was struck and killed by a Santa Ana Unified School District employee driving a work truck.
Last month, CalBike had the pleasure of connecting with Lynnete Guzman, the Community Coordinator at Kidworks, who oversaw the project.
CalBike: In 2012, KidWorks was awarded a two-year Safe Routes to School grant for a project focused on youth development, service learning, and health-promoting environmental change within the Building Healthy Community (BHC) Zone’s of the California Endowment.
In the first year, the project focused on walkability, but during the process the youths’ interest shifted instead to wanting to improve bikeability. How did this happen?
Lynnete Guzman: The youth became interested in improving bikeability in their neighborhoods because they faced challenges everyday while biking to school, to KidWorks, to their friends’ houses, or to the store. Some of the youth came from families who could not afford a car nor had access to one, and biking was their main mode of transportation. Biking was also an easier way to get youth together and have fun. A core group of about 4 youth became interested in learning more about Complete Streets policies and design concepts. From there, they developed their campaign now known as Bike It! Santa Ana at KidWorks.
CalBike: Tell us more about Maribel Mateo (now 18) and Tony Gatica (now 15) who led this new focus. Had they both been part of your overall Kidworks program for some time already? Had they already shown leadership skills?
LG: Maribel has been part of the Youth Empowerment Network program at KidWorks for about the last 4 years. When the program first started, she and other youth were learning from the city’s private consultant team on how to conduct walkability assessments in her neighborhoods. She was trained so that she could be a trainer and teach other youth and adult residents. She recruited her brother Tony to come learn and he has since been part of our program for the past 3 ½ years. Through their involvement at KidWorks, Maribel and Tony learned about community organizing for policy systems change to promote a better quality of life for Central Santa Ana residents. The two of them became core leaders of the Bike It! Santa Ana campaign and spearheaded the development of the relevant advocacy projects. They improved their leadership skills in community engagement efforts, public speaking, data collection, and more.