June 11, 2019
I am an active community member in the East Oakland school that I serve, yet I have found that outside my teaching responsibilities, I am still building community in my other interests. Moving to a new place requires patience and time before feeling a part of a new community, which is why it has taken almost 5 years to build that feeling for myself in the East Bay.
Outside of education, I like exploring nearby parks, trying new places to eat, camping, and of course, biking. However, I can sometimes get in a rut and begin asking myself, “But… who’s going to come with me?” Friends schedule gatherings weeks in advance, have other commitments, or may have different interests which sometimes leaves little room for spontaneous bike trips. That’s when I began to shift my thinking—instead of waiting for friends to join, I would find organizations that provide opportunities for community members to share similar interests.
Luckily, I subscribe to Bike East Bay’s Women Bike Enews and saw a perfect opening: the Women Bike internship. I’ve been wanting to be a part of women’s empowerment groups, and thought this internship would combine my interest in biking as well as meeting and supporting women in my community. Being a part of programs that empower women is so important because it provides spaces, like bike maintenance workshops, that have traditionally excluded or even discouraged women from participating. It also allows women to socialize: sharing similar interests and stories. For me, finding this internship opportunity meant not only participating in these special spaces, but also connecting with other women: building community along the way.
As the Women Bike Intern, my first task was to collaborate with other women in organizing the annual CycloFemme event, an international celebration of women on bikes. I had never organized a long bike ride before, besides occasional rides for a small group of friends, so this was a learning experience. Luckily, in collaboration with other brilliant women, all of whom had different experiences leading group rides or urban cycling, we successfully organized a long distance bike ride. Together, we collaborated on best routes, shared our strengths, and talked about future bike rides in the East Bay.
By collaborating and incorporating our strengths, we were able to participate in a 2.8 mile ride to Yerba Buena Island with 20 other bike enthusiasts on a sunny Sunday morning. After our short incline over the bridge, we were able to rest, connect and learn about the Bay Bridge Yard, a restoration project of the old Key System Railway, by East Bay Regional Park Naturalist Constance Taylor. The combination of biking, socializing, and learning about East Bay history made CycloFemme a great event where members could bike, mingle, and learn more about the history of our community. After exploring the shoreline and learning the routes of previous transportation infrastructure, bicyclists continued their route along the Bay Trail to Albany Bulb and Ohlone Greenway in Berkeley to explore current and projected bike-friendly trails, including the Bay Trail segment that is under construction near Golden Gate Fields.
Being a part of my first-ever organized bike ride not only enabled me to learn more about East Bay history and connect with other community members, but it also empowered me to feel confident in leading and co-organizing long bike rides. Through this internship, I have been able to meet other women like Crystel, who is passionate about urban cycling and trying new breweries and Constance, who enjoys long nature walks and identifying local flora. Sharing similar interests, I felt welcomed into a new community and hope to continue exploring East Bay bike trails and learning about its history.