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Katherine Velasquez with the City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District discussed the city’s first ciclovia, where a city temporarily opens busy streets so people in the community can go out and play in them. It was a huge success, with a turnout of 15,000 people. Cities as diverse as Los Angeles, New York, Mexico City, and Bogota, Colombia have instituted these vibrant community events.
San Antonio had received a $15.6 million grant from the federal stimulus plan to reduce and prevent obesity, and applied a small portion of those monies to get citizens outside to bike, run, and play. The first event was held on October 2, 2011, and the next will be on March 4, 2012. Designed for sustainability, they also partnered with the YMCA of Greater San Antonio to take on future Síclovía events once the grant cycle is over.
The ultimate goals were to promote active and alternative transportation and engage families and the entire community. “We wanted to promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles,” said Ms. Velasquez. They also hoped to provide access and exposure to a variety of physical activities without the negative connotations people often associate with the word “exercise.”
Ms. Velasquez explained that the event was very carefully organized, with a steering committee, route selection, and the proper approvals. They had water stations, first aid, bicycle rental and repair, healthy food vendors, porta-potties, and a large group of volunteers to keep everything running smoothly. The next event will even have water stations for pets. In addition to good planning, the events can accommodate spontaneous activity, too. “It’s very organized. We plan, but a lot of the things that happen, people do themselves,” Ms. Velasquez explained. Some participants arrived with hula hoops and sidewalk chalk to add to the fun.
A unique feature of the San Antonio events are “reclovias,” pre-arranged physical activity classes and stations along the route that engage participants in things like tai chi, yoga, zumba, basketball, rock walls, and obstacle courses. People on their way along the ciclovia route could stop and try out new activities at their leisure.
The event was a success, with word of mouth advertising being the driving force behind attracting 15,000 participants. Many were more physically active than the average San Anotonian, but twenty percent did come from targeted ZIP codes where public health is especially at risk, citing spending time with family as the primary motivator in getting them out and moving on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The city hopes the event continues on a regular basis, using urban streets and attracting a wide range of participants. “We want to close a street where we feel like we’re getting away with something.”
Doss Elementary in Austin, Texas, kicked off their Boltage Program on October 11, 2011. Boltage is a Kid Commute program using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology and sociology to influence a behavior change: more kids walking and biking to school. Doss was the 5th Boltage program implemented in Austin area schools in the last year and a half. It is also one of only five Boltage programs in the state of Texas and one of the forty active Boltage schools in the US and Canada. In Austin, Patsy Summer Elementary, Brentwood Elementary, Bryker Wood Elementary, and Martin have all sustained their programs since their Boltage launches.
Doss Elementary is unique in that the City of Austin anticipated a large number of kids riding their bikes to school with Boltage coming in, so the City put in curb cuts in the sidewalks, bike lanes, a new crosswalk, "No Parking" signage in bike lanes, and also provided additional crossing guards BEFORE the program launched! This private/public partnership with the city ensures greater success with the program, and Doss has benefited from this “Build it and they will come” approach. Today, over 550 kids who previously were driven to school are riding and walking instead. Doss now has become the best success example for the rest of the country with just under 10,000 trips completed, 14,501 miles ridden, and 622,985 calories burned since the end of October 2011!
Over 100 students biked to school for the Boltage Kick-off. Local advocacy organizations were on hand to teach the students Bike Safety. BikeTexas, Austin Cycling Association, the City of Austin, Safe Kids Program, and the Department of Health and Human Services Safe Routes program managers all came together with Bicycle Sport Shop and Trek Bicycles to make all five of these programs a huge success. Helmets were checked for improved fit, and replacements provided if necessary. The students then proceeded to a Bike Rodeo course to practiced their riding skills. There were smiling faces everywhere as kids rode through various courses, designed with an emphasis on safety, skills, and fun.
Doss principal Janna Griffin was handed a challenge this year with a school already 300 students over capacity, limited parking, and heavy traffic surrounding the school. This program has made a significant improvement in traffic flow around the school. Statistics show traffic accidents and fatalities decrease as walking and cycling transportation increase. Principal Griffin said, “I can’t thank the Boltage program enough for making such a difference for the children, their families, the community, and the schools. Parents are lingering around the schools, and there is just a positive energy surrounding these kids as they ride to school!” Teachers are reporting that their Boltage kids come to school alert and ready to learn. Besides the obvious benefits like reduction in traffic, gasoline savings, reduction in the carbon footprint, and healthier and more active kids, we’ve found Boltage just makes kids happy!
Fall in Texas provides a dramatic example of how good change feels. Change is inspiring because there's the challenge of learning and growth. At BikeTexas, we are excited about this Fall's changes...
We are pleased to announce two new staff members at BikeTexas!
Leslie Luciano, our new Communications Director has been a friend and close BikeTexas partner for over three years as the Director of Advocacy for Bicycle Sport Shop. Leslie will be working on Safe Routes to School and looks forward to expanding our social media outreach, networking with Bike Retailers around the state who are not yet members, and increasing sales of our Share the Road, Y'all and Texas Trails license plates.
Donna Hoffman, our new Program Manager comes from a successful seven year run at the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. Donna met BikeTexas when we helped with the 2009 Clean Energy bicycle rally and ride. Donna is excited about networking with Texas college faculty, staff, and students to create a new initiative at BikeTexas -- a College Freshmen Active Transportation Safety Course supported by a Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) grant.
Freddie Summer Moves to TxDOT When TxDOT recently went looking for someone with Safe Routes to School experience, they found their expert at BikeTexas. As a new Program Manager in the Traffic Safety Office of the Traffic Operations Division, Freddie Summer, our former Grant Compliance/Office Manager, will be involved in administering traffic safety grants for motorcyclists, pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicle occupants.
Emma Cravey & Jack Sanford on the Move In addition to our new staff members, we are shifting duties amongst our 10-member team. Emma Cravey, after building membership to an all-time high as Membership Director, has stepped up to serve as our Grant Compliance and Office Manager. Emma is excited to embrace the challenge! Jack Sanford, who was our Graphic Designer, will now take over as Membership Coordinator. By the looks of the new members he's brought on board in just the last month, we have no doubt Jack will successfully build BikeTexas'
On October 7th, 2011, the Texas NAACP presented BikeTexas with Texas President Award at the 75th Annual Texas NAACP State Convention. Gary Bledsoe, President of the Texas NAACP, handed the award to Robin Stallings, Executive Director of BikeTexas. Inscribed on the award are the words “For going above and beyond the call of duty to develop interest in biking and green benefits from biking in the African American Community”.
BikeTexas has a history of nurturing diversity, and bringing leaders into the bike culture. Texas Legislators host bike rides at the annual National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) meetings around the country. With their fleet of bicycles in tow, Bike Texas conducts these rides for our Texas Legislative hosts. Since 2005, Bike Texas has used opportunities like this to bring our Leaders and future leaders to cycling.
The following morning Bike Texas coordinated a bike ride for NAACP Leaders and attendees. Leaders from several NAACP chapters participated, including an enthusiastic group of collegiate chapter leaders. NAACP President Gary Bledsoe and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price also participated in the ride. The ride commenced shortly after dawn on a beautiful fall morning, touring Downtown Fort Worth and the Trinity Trail. Brenda Chuleewah Bike Texas’ Teacher Training and Program manager was impressed with all of the women on the ride, saying the group was a broad mix of gender and age.
A special thanks goes out to the Fort Worth Bike Police who did a fantastic job of escorting our cyclists. Bike Texas has also co-hosted rides with the NAACP in Kileen and Houston.
This is the first time in the history of the NAACP that a bike advocacy group received an award for helping to create more diversity in the cycling culture. Bike Texas is honored to be a part of this historic moment.
With the conclusion of the Fall Series, BikeTexas has just wrapped up the 12th year of the BikeTexas KidsKup. The BikeTexas KidsKup is a family oriented program and it is a great way to introduce kids to bicycle safety and handling skills in a fun off road environment. This year was the best year ever. BikeTexas KidsKup had over 400 kids participate in 12 races in the Spring and Fall Series of 2011. Boys and girls of all ages put on their helmets and rode whatever wheels they had: tricycles, scootbikes, bikes with training wheels, single-speed kick brake bikes, and even a few bikes with gears and disc brakes! Whatever the ride, everyone had fun and received goodie bags including Clif bars, water bottles, stickers, safety materials with videos, and shiny Shimano medals for their participation. At the BikeTexas KidsKup, everyone is a champion!
The next KidsKup race will be held on February 10, 2012 in conjunction with the TMBRA Warda Race in Warda, TX, with several more Kids Kup events following in the Spring 2012 series.
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