Meet the Bike It! Santa Ana Team by Melissa Balmer. Images by Allan Crawford.

I first met Lynnete Guzman, the young Community Coordinator for the non profit KidWorks in 2014 when we she participated in our "Active Living Plugged In" training. Lynnete went on to oversee the creation of the youth led Bike It! Santa Ana group including their successful application to the Active Transportation Program for the City of Santa Ana which raised 2.3 million in funds to create a protected bile lane on a segment of Edinger Ave. that serves eight local schools.

Right before Thanksgiving Allan Crawford and I met with Lynnete and the Bike It! group of youth to take photos to help share and grow their inspiring story. Note: the images shared here are available for editorial purposes in both web and print quality. Contact me here for details. At left Lynnete.

In the first part of this blog I share a recent interview with Lynnete. In the second part I asked the youth to tell you about themselves directly.

Melissa Balmer: What’s your first memory of riding a bike?

Lynnete Guzman: I remember when I was 4 years old I was already riding my bike without training wheels. I remember falling many times, but I never remember crying about it or feeling scared. I remember how much it meant to me to learn how to bike on my own, without training wheels, so I could race the older neighborhoods kids down the street.

MB: How did you get involved in working with KidWorks?

Lynnete: I knew I wanted to pursue a career in doing advocacy work for environmental justice, and I felt overwhelmed at all the different areas of that work. KidWorks provide the opportunity to learn more about it through the lens of the local youth and in the city that I was raised in. The youth educated me on Complete Streets concepts and the benefits and barriers to biking in Santa Ana. I quickly learned how access to safe active transportation was an environmental justice issue in the city of Santa Ana.

MB: You came to our Pedal Love Active Living Plugged In training last year correct? Did anything you learn during that training help you with the work you're doing now? And are there any advocacy skills you’d like to learn more about?

Lynnete: The Active Living Plugged In training helped me develop my own voice. As a Community Organizer, my job is to facilitate the development of the youth’s leaderships skills and their campaign efforts. I devote my time to provide them with resources that will help them feel empowered. So the training for me helped me develop my narrative for why I do this work and where my passion comes from. It also helped me improve my public speaking skills, and increase my confidence. The best part was that I was learning in a spaced provided for woman-identified folks and I felt supported and empowered.

I think there will always be skills out there that I would love to learn. Lately I’ve been curious to learn how to use design software to promote local advocacy efforts. It seems fun learning how to create a flyer on PhotoShop or editing a video of fun bike rides.

MB: Dream a little for us, what would you like to see happen for safer bike ability in the area of Santa Ana that you serve via your program in the next few years?

Lynnete: I think Central Santa Ana deserves to have safe infrastructure in their neighborhoods because we have high rates of people walking and biking as their main mode of transportation than in any other part of the city or county. This push would help reduce the gap in terms of environmental justice and health equity. Furthermore, I think educating youth and adult residents on safe urban biking should be a priority for the city. This would help reduce the amount of bicycle collisions that occur. It would be amazing to see youth learning best biking practices during their physical education class or have a citywide program that provides the option to enroll in a safe bicycling course rather than paying for a related traffic ticket.

Maribel Mateo

My name is Maribel Mateo and I am a freshman at Cal State Fullerton. The reason I, along with my brother and another youth, created Bike It! Santa Ana was because we wanted to see safer bike infrastructure in our community. For about three years my family didn’t have a car, and the fastest mode of transportation was biking because walking was time consuming. So as we started biking more, including my family, I noticed that many of the streets in our community weren’t safe and there were many people apart from us biking already. I am a Youth Organizer and this work includes campaign development, outreach, facilitating meetings, and educating myself and others about policy and advocacy. My role in the grant writing project for the Active Transportation Program (ATP) grant cycle 2 was doing data collection and answering questions that stated why we need the protected bike lane on Edinger Ave and how important it is to our community. Some of my interests apart from community organizing are playing sports, watching movies, and going to Disneyland because of my annual pass.

Tony Gatica

My name is Tony Gatica and I am 15 years old. I am a sophomore at Godinez Fundamental High School. I bike because my family at one point did not have a car.  I started biking because it was faster and because I would get exercise from it. Even though I felt unsafe it was the quickest and my only way of transportation. I was one of the core youth that developed the Bike It! Santa Ana campaign because I felt that through our advocacy the city could become a nice place to bike. One of the projects that I have taken lead on is creating the bike survey which allowed us to collect data on where people were biking to and from in the city. I also captured footage on a Go-Pro and learned how to edit a video which explains the obstacles when riding your bike in Santa Ana. These projects I took lead on were part of the data we used to write a grant that received state funding of $2.3 million for a protected bike lane on Edinger Ave. This is a street with a high rate of bicycle and pedestrian collisions so we are promoting safety.  Edinger Ave is also one of the streets that lead me to home, to school and to KidWorks. I am proud of being one of the youth that helped in making the city bike friendly for future generations!

Alitzel Velasco

My name is Alitzel Velasco and I’m a freshman at the Samueli Academy. My sister was the first one to start coming to YEN (Youth Empowerment Network) at KidWorks. One day my mom forced her to take me with her. Since then I have always loved coming to YEN and being part of the Bike it! Santa Ana campaign. Before we wrote the grant we had to consider a lot of factors and do a lot of planning before actually writing it. We collected data by getting surveys filled out at houses and resource fairs around our community. After gathering all the data we got from doing research I sat down with an adult volunteer from our coalition SAAS (Santa Ana Active Streets) to answer questions for the grant. I think this work will really help me stand out from all the other students and get me a better chance at getting into a good college. I want to pursue a career as a marine biologist, forensic anthropologist or plant biologist. People always ask me why I bike and I think there are 2 reasons for this. One of these reasons is because my mom doesn’t drive and by the time I get home neither my sister nor my dad are home to drive us places. Biking is also a lot faster than walking or taking the bus, and it is a lot more exciting and helps keep you in shape. When I bike I see things that I would never see in a car or on the bus. I also really like taking pictures of many interesting things and on bike rides I have been on. Some of the projects we have done that I really enjoyed were the Video Voice and the bike safety courses for youth. I really like teaching other people about bike safety because they learn how to be safe while on their bikes, and they can also teach others. I think that is the point of doing all this work. It is so that we can help keep people safe in our community.

Carlos Del Pilar

My name is Carlos Del Pilar and I am in my second year at Cal State Fullerton. The reason why I joined KidWorks was to help my community through the Youth Empowerment Network (YEN) program and participate in the committee that advocated for equitable land use. Youth leader, Maribel Mateo, later invited me to a workshop that caught my attention about street grading and improvements which was taught by professional engineers. When the workshop and series of trainings finished we decided to make the Bike It! Santa Ana campaign. Biking was my main mode of transportation since I was too young to own a car, pay for my own gas, and car insurance. I got really involved in the campaign and became a Youth Organizer. I worked with other youth and we all met together for the same reason: for bike lanes in Santa Ana. Outside of my involvement in Bike it! Santa Ana I coach soccer and I also have an interest in photography.

Ernesto Bejarano

My name is Ernesto Bejarano. I am 15 years old and I am a sophomore at Santa Ana High School. I got involved with KidWorks after my older brother started working here. The first day that I came to KidWorks I attended a YEN (Youth Empowerment Network) meeting and I got introduced to the Bike It! Santa Ana team. I decided to join and to continue to be part of the Bike It! team because I enjoy staying active, and I like that they help out the community by promoting active transportation and teaching people how to be safe by doing so. My role in the grant proposal was that I helped with the community engagement process by collecting surveys. I like to give back to my community because my community is what inspires me in achieving greater things in life. After high school I plan on attending my dream school, Berkeley, and majoring in psychology.

Evelyn Contreras

My name is Evelyn Contreras and I am in 10th grade at Valley High School. My involvement with Bike It! Santa Ana started because a friend invited me to join. My role in writing the grant for the bike lane on Edinger Ave was answering specific questions, and collecting data and the input of the community. My work on this project helped me gain knowledge in bike safety advocacy and improved my writing skills. This experience will help me in the future and for college. I like to bike because it’s quick transportation, great exercise, and it’s a nice relaxation.