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Watsonville is on a roll with new bicycling event

By Karen Kefauver
June 18, 2015
Link to Sentinel Article

Contributed Pastor Robby Olson of United Presbyterian Church of Watsonville, left, Saskia Lucas, director of Open Streets Watsonville, and Felipe Hernandez, Watsonville’s mayor pro tem and founder of Bike Friendly Watsonville, rode their bicycles at Open Streets Watsonville on May 17. The inaugural Community Bike Ride in Watsonville takes place June 27.
Contributed Pastor Robby Olson of United Presbyterian Church of Watsonville, left, Saskia Lucas, director of Open Streets Watsonville, and Felipe Hernandez, Watsonville’s mayor pro tem and founder of Bike Friendly Watsonville, rode their bicycles at Open Streets Watsonville on May 17. The inaugural Community Bike Ride in Watsonville takes place June 27. 

Watsonville resident Jenni Olson calls herself an “occasional bike commuter,” but next weekend she’ll be riding her bike purely for fun. Olson will be cruising at a leisurely pace on her road bike along with dozens of others at Watsonville’s inaugural Community Bike Ride on June 27.

Olson and her husband, Robby, the pastor of United Presbyterian Church of Watsonville, will ride a 2.6-mile loop that starts and ends at Second Street Cafe.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Olson, an educator and roller derby devotee. “My bike is nothing fancy but it is certainly enough to get around town. It will be fun. We’re also bringing our dog, Archie, along for the ride.”

The pair has been helping promote the event, which is presented by the new group Bike Friendly Watsonville (BFW).

Felipe Hernandez, Watsonville’s mayor pro tem, launched the BFW group last month with the mission of promoting bike riding and advocating for improved infrastructure, including bike lanes, in Watsonville.

“This is Bike Friendly Watsonville’s first bike ride. It is open to everyone and is focused on the beginner level, as I am just a beginner myself,” Hernandez said. “It is open to kids, teens, adults and seniors as well. This is a jeans-khakis-shorts-or-dress-and-flip-flops kind of bike club for everyone to enjoy.”

Hernandez was inspired to launch BFW after attending the inaugural Open Streets Watsonville on May 17. That event brought hundreds of local residents on foot, bike and skateboards to enjoy recreation on a half-mile route of downtown streets closed to traffic for four hours.

“It was certainly the catalyst for me to start Bike Friendly Watsonville, to try to replicate that experience at a smaller, more frequent scale,” Hernandez said. “I saw that biking was something that everyone can participate in, despite language, fitness level, age, race and income. What Open Streets did for me is turn a normal bike ride into an experience by including the community’s participation.”

The event even inspired him to ride a bike for the first time in years. Prior to that he hadn’t owned a bike since his school days.

“He is clearly really interested in promoting bicycling and more bike-friendly culture,” Open Streets organizer Saskia Lucas said of Hernandez. “His event is happening and it’s awesome. … At Open Streets Watsonville, he was the only council member that I saw riding a bike. He clearly has a passion for bike riding.”

Along with enthusiasm for the new bicycle event, there is recognition that change doesn’t happen overnight.

“Quite a few people mentioned to us during Open Streets Watsonville that Watsonville is not a bike-friendly city,” said Kymberly Lacrosse, Project Director of United Way of Santa Cruz. “I replied it’s not going to be a bike-friendly city until you say it is and make it one. Having this new community bike ride is a very positive step in the right direction. The key is not letting obstacles get in the way and not waiting,”

“Open Streets Watsonville brought everyone out to gather with no agenda except to be together and have fun together. We need more of that,” added Lacrosse, who oversees Jovenes SANOS, whose mission is to prevent and raise awareness about childhood obesity in Watsonville. “The most important thing is building community in positive ways and this ride will help with that absolutely.”

“Watsonville is becoming a great city to ride,” said Hernandez, who now cycles to City Hall for council duties, Second Street Café for community meetings and in the evening for recreation.

“Our focus is on increasing the ridership of those wanting to ride for transportation and pleasure,” he said. “We’ll host community bike rides and themed bike rides. Overall, we want to have more bicycle bike racks, bike lanes and bicycle safety awareness.”

If You Go

Bike Friendly Watsonville

When: June 27, 10 a.m.

Distance: Approximately 2.6 miles at a kid-friendly pace.

Route: Starts and ends at Second Street Cafe, 28 Second Street, Watsonville. It travels down Main Street, to Ohlone Parkway, to Harkins Slough, to Ford Street, to Rodriguez and back to Second Street.

Cost: Free

Information: Call 831-707-4392 or visit Bike Friendly Watsonville on Facebook

 

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