Another sunny Friday afternoon featured our yellow jersey-clad class cruising down the Pacific Electric Trail and maneuvering hectic streets towards our final destination of the Pitzer in Ontario’s new headquarters in downtown Ontario. While a beautiful ride, there were distinct differences to some of the other cities we have visited throughout the semester. In all of Ontario, we saw no bike lanes. Cars whizzed past us (including one that called out “sexy bike boys,” providing the inspiration for this post’s title), making me very glad to be riding with a large group of brightly appareled classmates, and not on my own. The Pitzer in Ontario building was the headquarters for Wheelhouse, an organization that aims to provide resources to Ontario community members looking to learn more about biking. From offering access to tools to repair bikes to safety classes to a Build-a-Bike program for area youth, Wheelhouse is working to be a biking hub for the community. One of our very own, Cade, will actually be running this program as a full-time job beginning in June!
While at Ontario, we had the opportunity to meet with several community activists and one City Planner. We learned many things about the state of biking in the community. Ontario has had difficulty obtaining grant money for biking infrastructure initiatives, although that has not stopped them from moving forward with fresh new ideas to improve biking and ridership throughout the city. Many of the themes that emerged were similar to past weeks, but what I found particularly potent and invigorating in this discussion was their emphasis on community involvement. All of the speakers are actively and critically thinking about how to make Ontario more bike-friendly for families, children, commuters – for all everyday riders. By creating safe group and family rides, they hope to demonstrate to the local government that there is a demand for bike infrastructure in the area. To grow the number of people participating in community rides, they hope to connect individuals without bikes to the Wheelhouse in order to get a new bike. Community bike rides often end at local events and businesses, further encouraging and benefiting local community initiatives. This data on increased ridership and successful events can then be constructive for city employees looking to complete grant applications and garner political willpower to move forward on bike initiatives. In this way, it became clear that their spirit of collaboration could be an amazing way to help work towards creating the support and resources needed to transform Ontario into a bike-friendly town.
Personally, I thought this was a great ride to end on. It’s hard to believe, but this week was already our last visit to talk with city officials, community members, and bike advocates. The semester is winding down, and we only have our mountain bike ride and poster presentations on our final projects left. Ontario clearly has numerous challenges to work through. However, everyone we talked to was passionate, resourceful, and motivated to continue creating their own bicycle revolution. Without being naive, they are optimistic — it is this attitude that I find absolutely necessary to create real and lasting change, and one that I personally hope to carry away from this class.
— Nathalie Folkerts